Leader Pathways

The Life of Leading Greatly  
May 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 3 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 3 of a 4-part series

The Time and Place for Mentoring

“By having two different methodologies — coaching and mentoring — two different levels of expertise, we were able to offer one of our longtime clients exactly the kinds of conversations they needed, for each person.”

In my last message, we explored the definition of success in coaching and saw how it stacked up against the Arch’s notion of a life of leading greatly. This message considers how coaching and mentoring contrast in actual practice, and how to make the right choice when considering leader development assistance.

To every thing there is a season, says the writer of Ecclesiastes. Here at Arch of Leadership, there is a time for coaching and there is a time for mentoring.

Of course, when an organization is in its initial stages and there are few people, or maybe just one person who is doing it all, managing and leading fall to the same persons and thus coaching and mentoring cannot be easily separated.

However, when an organization grows (or is) larger, when differentiation of responsibilities and attentions starts to takes place the demands for distinguishing between managing and leading becomes more important. And accordingly, the need for separating coaching from mentoring becomes more necessary.

In the larger organization there are times when managerial processes need developing. In such a case, a coach is indispensable in promoting individual and collective practices that help an organization more proficient. At other times, people in the organization might need to be reminded about the vision; they might need help in order to recall the values and dreams that led to the founding of the organization. These people might also need to institute new practices of learning and health for themselves, so as to simply keep spirits up and stay equal to the challenges. Under these conditions, we put on the mentor hat.

Sometimes, while changes are going on, one group people can be mentored while others receive coaching.

Mentoring Versus Coaching: In the Act

The difference between being a mentor with someone versus being a coach to them was brought home recently for me. My firm was hired by a company to do executive coaching and organizational development. In my initial meetings with the executives involved I kept my questioning to coaching issues: the operations, communications, their leader style, the relationships between departments and groups, the stars and the problem people in their groups. As people talked, I wanted to go further and ask about their own energies, their personal practices of learning, enrichment and expansion. But such personal exploration, and sometimes critical observation, was not prepared for (by testing or previously agreed upon parameters). Had I gone in that direction, it would have seemed like a personal attack, or a “therapy” conversation, rather than a discussion focused on results.

However, I did have a mentoring relationship with the CEO of the company. While the managerial and operational changes were going on, I spoke to in a completely different way than we did to the front line managers. This CEO had to totally grasp and embody what vision he was putting into place, rather than execute what was put before him. He had to re-conceive the markets the organization addressed. And he had to make drastic and painful personnel changes. All of these brought him to new thresholds of his values and of his sense of his worthiness in making such determinations. He was stepping into leading in a hugely different way. Only mentoring was of service to him.

It would have been a waste to talk to him about organizational processes, but it would have been intrusive to talk to his managers about their own personal crises while they were in the midst of implementing huge changes under time and money constraints. By having two different methodologies, two different levels of expertise, we were able to offer this longtime client exactly the kinds of conversations they needed, for each person. We thus increased the value of those one-on-ones, increasing as well both the chances for success and the capacity for growth.

We Don’t Mix Mentoring and Coaching

By our own decision, Arch of Leadership mentors do not mentor and coach the same person at the same time. We separate the operational improvement messages from the personal growth and change issues. Certainly, a mentor or coach wants to care for the whole individual. And, during a coaching session, we might very clearly envision that personal growth is called for. But, again, there is a time and a place for everything.

During a baseball game, when a batter is in the box, a coach might very well yell out, “Keep your eye on the ball.” But that batter’s mentor is not likely to yell out, “You need to think about the next stage in your life.” Likewise, when a manager is in the midst of a crucial effort to change operations, a mentor’s advice might just be a distraction. If the operational effort is demanding overtime, the mentor’s advice might sound down right foolish. But after the effort, when the results are in, that manager might then be ready to hear new messages about how to lead greatly, and not just get the desired results.

Also, we do not often use different people for mentoring and coaching that person. That way the messages are kept very distinct. The different kinds of learning and attention are literally embodied by different people in the client’s life.

In my next message, we’ll conclude our discussion of the Mentoring Premium by delving deeper into the distinctions between coaching and mentoring so as to finalize our answer to this question.

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

Web: http://www.archofleadership.com