Training, Mentoring, Coaching – Which Can Help?

by Margo Boster

I was recently talking with an associate about the direction they were receiving from their new executive leadership. The leader was very clear about his vision but, my associate said, it didn’t seem to be translating into action throughout the ranks. People were leaving the organization, which, in some cases was a good thing, but they knew that mass exodus alone wasn’t the answer to building the organization to where the executive wanted it to be. The executives and senior managers felt they were on-board with the senior leader– or they were too afraid to say they didn’t understand how to translate what they heard to what was expected. They were considering offering training for the lower level employees to show they were taking actions that the senior leader expected. We discussed which training courses they should offer as well as different developmental alternatives.

Developing leaders and succession plan (38%) is the 2nd most pressing concern of executives, only following competing for talent globally and in emerging markets (41%) according to Deloitte’s “Talent Edge 2020” longitudinal survey. So what can help develop you, your leaders and your employees Training, Mentoring or Coaching? The answer is all of them. Just at different points in one’s career.

Executives / Senior Managers: Let’s start with executives and senior managers since attitudes and culture usually start at the top. It is from this group that I often hear “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This may be true; however, through effective executive coaching it is possible for the leader to better utilize the “tricks” learned through the years. If they want to upgrage their skills, why not see the center for executive coaching? At this point in their career, the executive could probably write most training books or courses, and they are at such a level in the organization they are mentors to others, not to mention there are few people “above” the executive to mentor them. Hence, training and mentoring are generally not the answer, unless there are specific technical skills the individual is looking to expand.

Senior executives – and their organizations – can benefit from the executives and senior management receiving coaching. The higher you go in an organization, the more you find that people are less likely to tell you what you need to hear. Who is telling the executive what they can’t or won’t see yet need to hear? And who does the executive count on to keep their confidences and only look out for the good of the executive?

Also, at this point many executives are thinking about what will be their legacy. Do you know what you want your legacy to be? Are you certain that you are doing the necessary actions to leave the legacy that you desire? An executive coach can help.

Middle to Upper Management: As one advances through their career, how does one incorporate the skills they have learned and the new skills needed for their expanding roles and responsibilities? For the middle to upper management both mentoring and coaching can be greatly beneficial. Moving up, one can learn from those who have come before through mentoring. A mentor, particularly within one’s organization, can help the manager navigate the landscape and learn from their mistakes.

While mentoring is beneficial to help learn how others have done things successful, coaching can help one discover how they can be the best them possible. At this point in careers, people are transitioning from individual contributor to manager. This is perhaps the most important time in an individual’s career to help them be successful for the current and future levels. Many outstanding individual contributors “flame out” as they move into higher levels of management. By assigning – or finding – a mentor, you can help navigate the known landscape. A professional coach can help one navigate the unknown and become a better leader.

Early in Career to Entry Management: Training and mentoring are most useful early in one’s career and as they enter into early management positions. Training helps introduce needed skills (both “hard” and “soft” skills), but it alone is not sufficient to ensure change in behavior or performance. Mentoring can help the employee incorporate them into the job/career. The value of a mentor cannot be over estimated. This is the period when the groundwork is being established.

In the recent “Talent Edge 2020” survey, more 71% executives who participated in the survey expect to increase the focus on developing high-potential employees and emerging leaders. Don’t let you or your organization be left behind. What are you and your organization doing to develop high-potential employees and emerging leaders? I’d love to hear from you.

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