Coaching and Mentoring (using one)
Once you've been hired to do a job, particularly if it's a
well paid and/or high-flying job, you're supposed to know
everything, be able to handle everything with ease, deal with
other people's problems and in general be super-person. Right?
Well, not exactly.
There are loads of people who get hired for, or promoted to,
really good jobs because of the skills and capabilities they
have demonstrated. Yet six months later they are floundering
and don't appear to be up to it all.
You may be one of those people.
It's not unusual for people, even at the beginning of their
careers, to feel they are supposed to know more and be able
to do more than they are currently able to. A common and recurrent
nightmare is the feeling that somehow they will be 'found
out' as not being up to the job and thrown out on their ear.
What can get left out when people are hired for a job -- wherever
they are on the career ladder -- is that they will need some
form of guidance and support along the way. Some companies
know this and part of their employee care is to have a coaching
and/or mentoring programme in place. Unfortunately, many do
For people who do work for such a company, it may feel uncomfortable
or embarrassing asking for support internally, and so they
go without. This is where the 'I should know it all already'
belief kicks in, and the offers of coaching or mentoring go
"I'll look weak."
"I won't want people to know I've asked for help."
"My staff won't respect me if they know I'm seeing someone."
"It's counselling isn't it -- I don't need counselling."
"I think it's great our company has this terrific programme,
I'll recommend it to my staff -- not my kind of thing really."
"If they thought I needed coaching I wouldn't have been hired
in the first place."
"They must think I'm not doing so well if they think I need
And so on.
Let's take David Beckham (we know, we know, there's plenty
of us who'd like to take David Beckham), who obviously got
hired for his manifest talent but also his potential. He brought
a lot of his innate ability with him, but what has developed
his talent has been careful, consistent and constant coaching.
This has been both for his skill as a footballer and his maturity
as a human being. He didn't start out as England's Captain,
but got there through his hard work and the hard work of many
others. No embarrassment there in having coaching.
See, if you were a sports person, you'd know what to do: you'd
have a coach who'd work with you on your fitness, your training
and eating regimens, your attitude, your goals. You'd be supported
by someone who had your best interests as a priority. You
wouldn't even question that coaching was part of the deal;
it would be integral to your development.
Coaches help us get better at what we already do.
All of us need guidance and motivation at different times
in our lives: someone to 'coach' us into the corporate equivalent
of swimming those extra laps or helping us make those crucial
adjustments to our golf swing.
Good coaching is unbiased, objective support that sees and
identifies the best of your qualities and abilities and helps
you develop them; it sees and identifies which hurdles are
hard to get over and finds ways to get over them or circumvent
them when appropriate. Good coaching comes from someone on
the sidelines who has your best interests as a priority.
A coach or mentor is a guide; an advisor, someone on your
side; loyal, interested, trusted and most importantly, experienced
in areas that you may not be.
This person can be someone senior to you or on an equal footing,
but who helps steer your career through both the good and
the difficult times. They provide motivation and inspiration
and help you find ways to deal with immediate difficulties
as well as helping you plan a long-term career strategy.
That all makes sense, doesn't it?
So why don't more people have coaches and mentors? Why don't
people just see it as 'normal' and expected, rather than something
out of the ordinary?
Indeed, many companies tend to call us in when someone is
on their knees, gasping for breath and going down for the
third time, to mix a few metaphors. Not at the beginning of
their career, or when they've got promotion. No, only when
they can't possibly hide for one minute more that they are
in trouble, might they moot that a spot of help might possibly
What a shame.
It is possible for all that floundering to be avoided.
This is how it could work. When you go for a new job or get
promotion ask for coaching up front, as part of your package.
At the moment you've been given a new project or extra responsibilities,
make sure you let people know that in turn you expect extra
support. During your next appraisal, put coaching and mentoring
support high on your agenda.
What you're looking to do with any of these suggestions is
to normalise the idea of mentoring and coaching; almost to
assume that 'of course coaching is part of the deal' not something
you need only when there are no options left.
You see, all the 'big people' have someone around. Remember
that old phrase: "Behind every successful man, you'll find
a good woman"? The truth is, behind every successful person,
you'll usually find a coach, mentor, counsellor/therapist,
'guru' or wise person. Why? Because the smart ones know that
good support just makes life a whole lot easier.
Where do I begin?
First off, if you work for a company that doesn't have a coaching/mentoring
programme, you're going to have to create one. Here's how
you can go about doing that.
Look around for someone senior, who's doing what you'd like
to be doing and cultivate them: ask their opinion and advice
a lot; pay attention to the things they do and give them lots
of acknowledgement for their successes; ask to pick their
brain and don't be shy about letting them know you admire
If it's genuine it won't come across as toadying!
Be up front about asking for formal and informal appraisals
and feedback on your work from a number of people.
This person may not technically be called a coach, but that
doesn't mean you can't use them as if they were.
Now, whether you're lucky enough to work for a company that
has a coaching/mentoring programme, or you find you have to
create one, here are some tips on how to make the relationship
What to look for
Try not to get too hung up on hierarchy and where your prospective
coach/mentor sits within the company. What you want is someone
* knows what they're doing
* has a broad experience and knows the ins and outs of the
* has a good understanding of your role
* has good listening skills
* will make time to support you
* makes you feel as though you'll learn lots from them
* mentors other people
On top of all that you do need to like the person who's going
to work with you. Some companies assign someone right at the
outset, and others let the employee choose if possible. For
the relationship to work you do need to get along with each
other; otherwise it becomes a duty, a 'going through the motions',
rather than a mutually enjoyable process.
Wisdom doesn't always come with age or seniority. Having said
that, try not to be too intimidated if you do end up working
with someone very senior. It might help to remember that mentoring
is a two-way process and your coach/mentor will be getting
a lot out of the relationship as well.
Set really clear parameters at the beginning. How often you'll
meet, for how long. We recommend that in the initial stages
you keep things relatively formal, in the sense of regularly
scheduled meetings for at least 30 minutes each, or longer.
After that you can negotiate whether to keep a formal structure
or to make it more ad hoc, on a needs basis.
The point isn't the frequency, but what you want to get out
of the sessions.
That's the next crucial bit: what you want. It helps for you
to be as clear as possible so your coach knows how best to
support you. It's OK to have a long list of questions, concerns,
issues, doubts, etc. The one thing you don't want to do is
pretend you know more than you do. That would defeat the whole
purpose, and yet we've seen this happen time and time again.
People don't want to appear too vulnerable or out of their
depth, so they fake it -- even to their mentors. Not a good
Where the clarity is important is in identifying what's making
you feel out of your depth:
Are there additional skills you need?
Have you been given a new challenge that feels daunting and
you don't know where to begin?
Are you avoiding conflict with someone so things remain unresolved?
Are you afraid to speak your mind for fear of appearing ignorant
and humiliating yourself?
Does it feel as though you don't have enough time?
Are you, indeed, afraid of being 'found out'?
You know how some managers say, "Bring me solutions, not problems."
With a coach you can bring them all the problems you've got!
Then between the two of you, you can discover some solutions.
It really is all right to make mistakes. You can't and won't
know it all and you will screw up every once in a while --
everyone does. When you do, try not to make excuses, point
the finger of blame at someone else, sweep it under the carpet
and hope it will resolve itself on all its own or justify
your own behaviour.
Humility and maturity go hand in hand. When something goes
awry, take responsibility for what went wrong and use your
coach/mentor to debrief. Let them offer suggestions as to
what you might have done differently and what you could do
now to get things back on course.
One thing we don't think is a good idea is to ask, or expect,
your coach/mentor to gossip or agree with you just how awful
someone else is. Yes, their job may be to be on your side,
but not to take sides. Don't look to them to encourage 'stirring'
or 'colluding'. That simply doesn't help create solutions.
It's fine, of course, to have a good old moan, and to off-load
some of your gripes and annoyances. Just don't expect lots
of, "Well, everyone thinks so and so is a total waste of space,
so you're not alone."
What both your aim needs to be, is to actively find ways to
resolve any difficulties or differences you are having, not
to feed the problem.
Dreams and Aspirations
Be bold! Don't necessarily wait for someone else to say, "You
know, you'd probably make a good manager/director/team leader/etc."
If that's something you want, one of the best uses of a coach
is to let them know. It's thrilling to help someone plan an
exciting and motivating strategy to develop their career and
watch them achieve it.
Jo Ellen and Robin Chandler run Impact Factory a training
company who provide Coaching
and Mentoring, Public Speaking, Presentation Skills, Communications
Training, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching for
Article Source: http://www.upublish.info
Return to The Mental Game
of Coaching Articles directory.