Leader Pathways

The Life of Leading Greatly  
April 2007

Mentoring Leaders for Bold Tomorrows

Individual Mentoring or Custom In-house Group Programs

Publishing and Speaking

In this Issue:

Mentoring: Whence the Premium?
Part 1 of a 4-part series

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In Michael Shenkman's book The Arch and the Path we see how great leaders embark on a strenuous life path in order to transform mere possibilities into more expansive and encompassing opportunities for all. Shenkman vividly portrays how the life of leading is a journey of the mind, heart and spirit that is like no other.

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   Mentoring: Whence the Premium?

Michael Shenkman Part 1 of a 4-part series

Relationships and Differences

"The Arch of Leadership's professional mentors empower our mentees to shape their lives so that they can step into larger challenges and risks that attend doing greater things than they ever had before."

For some time now, our Boston-based Arch associate Bonnie Gorbaty and I have been considering the creation of a mentor training program. We would train Arch of Leadership mentors for a fee, our plan envisioned, and then provide new mentors with a license (on a case-by-case basis) to utilize the Arch methodology. One prime target audience would be management consultants already active in coaching executives in their client companies. Who better to bring our work into more diverse settings? Executive coaches, after all, come equipped with ready access to those most likely to reap value from our Arch of Leadership mentoring process.

As our discussions proceeded, however, questions began to cascade into our neat plan: Why would someone who already is working with executives be interested in the Arch program? Why would these accomplished professionals pay us to do something they already consider themselves to be doing? What makes our value proposition viable to this elite stratum of consultants?

Also, Bonnie and I charge a “premium” over our coaching assignments, and how do we justify that premium? More critically for the consultant, how would an accomplished executive coach justify a premium over current work, thus rendering it a “second tier” kind of activity?

These questions stopped us cold in our tracks. No answer, no program. Period.

We began talking about these hurdles to friends and associates who quickly pointed out factors that made for a distinctive Arch value proposition. Here are a few that emerged:

  • Our proven methodology
  • Our work is thoroughly researched and validated theoretically and practically.
  • We have a book to welcome continued examination and critique.
  • We have testimonials that substantiate our claims of premium value.
  • There is a real distinction between management and leading and our methodology strictly and consistently separates the two.

Such suggested factors were helpful to our dilemma, and all these factors are certainly true. But any executive coach would point out virtually the same things about their own work, so where was the premium in these factors? We still had not found a markedly differentiating value proposition that we felt would satisfy candidates for our new mentor training program.

Then the voices of our clients started to resound. Why in fact do people come to us rather than an executive coach? We know from experience they come to us with thoughts like these:

  • “I feel I am successful, but I also feel that something is missing and I don’t know
    what it is.”
  • “I am searching for that commitment that will make a difference in my life.”
  • “I am a successful executive, but I keep asking myself: Is this all there is?”

A friend and colleague of mine, Ken Jacobson, president and founder of Orbus International added: “Nothing great ever comes from coaching.”

That bold assertion ignited a flash. Like the strike of the Rinzai Zen Master’s stick on the shoulder, it came to me:

Executive coaches may help you succeed,

But Arch mentors help you greatly lead.

Now, to be sure, any leader wants to succeed, and in that regard executive coaching has certainly proven its worth. But professional mentoring touches something else: It empowers our mentees to shape their lives so that they can step into larger challenges and risks that attend doing greater things than they ever had before.

“It’s not a matter of one or the other,” my friend Ken continued. “Rather, if one has the capability to do either or both, coaching or mentoring, the key is knowing when to use mentoring and when to use coaching.” At those words, the relationship between the two endeavors began stretching out before my eyes. And it is a relationship, a continuum of people helping and reaching out to each other, in tune with circumstances, life stages and goals, and different abilities, interests and aspirations.

This relationship and difference between executive coaching and mentoring take place upon the stage of aspiring toward success in the context of organizational collaboration and effort.

Why This Fight?

I asked a client I have worked with for many years to help me think through this issue as well. As a turnaround specialist CEO, he had hired my firm some years ago first in the capacity as executive coach and, later as mentor. I was surprised when he responded to my query with this question, "Aren’t you risking confusing your clients by trying to make that distinction?”

Another client who was interested in our work specifically requested that we not make the distinction, and that we call our work “executive coaching,” so that it would fit in with the corporation’s existing efforts in personnel development. All this gave me pause. Really, what difference does it make to a client if you call it coaching or mentoring?

There are myriad reasons that, for someone hiring a professional adviser for his or her executive staff, suggest that it doesn’t matter. For example, the conscientious executive, who cares about individuals in the organization, might say, “What matters to me is that people get one-on-one ‘help’ in becoming better at what they do.” As one of my clients has said, “Offering your program shows the level of commitment our organization has toward our people not only as employees and but as people too. We’re not just checking a box in an HR evaluation, claiming to do personnel development.”

The one-on-one format offered by executive coaches and mentors has obvious advantages over the group format or the off-site seminar/conference way of offering development. The lessons learned in the interview format are more likely to be remembered and implemented than those picked up by listening to a mass audience address or workshop. Whether as coaching or mentoring, the one-on-one development yields both more expensive and more affecting, impactful results just because each person’s case is considered individually. So for most executives who hire this kind of specialist, just the fact of using a one-on-one format is enough of a difference.

So, since these CEOs or HR VPs are pre-occupied with many more issues than what nuance of advice people might be getting, why even try to get this point across? Is this fight worth fighting?

We say it is, and so my next message will be devoted to why we think so as I focus on definitions of “success” vs. “leading greatly.”

To learn more about how Arch can work with YOUR organization, visit www.archofleadership.com.

Web: http://www.archofleadership.com