Mentoring and Coaching

The Problem

You've just hired a group of new employees with little workplace experience. You asked your experienced employees to 'take them under their wing'. This sounds like a good approach: mentoring and coaching are tried and tested ways of transferring knowledge from a more experienced person to a less experienced person.

However, the relationship often breaks down. In reality, the coach or mentor is still busy doing what they see as 'real work', and when push comes to shove, real work takes precedence over knowledge transfer. As far as the coach or mentor is concerned, there isn't much of an incentive to do the coaching. This is especially true if the experienced person is due to retire. Ineffective transfer of knowledge may be 'not my problem' as far as the retiree is concerned.

Another part of the problem with the traditional view of mentoring and coaching is that accountability for knowledge transfer lies with the coach or mentor. It may be assumed by all, or even written into the coach or mentor's job description, that they should take the leading role. The status of 'having knowledge' is conflated with the status of 'driving the process'. The mentee plays a passive role, and we may end up with random 'knowledge push', that is we end up with teaching not necessarily with learning.

That's how you end up with the more experienced people saying "they never ask me anything" and the less experienced people saying "they won’t tell me anything”.

The Solution

Our consultants are very experienced in their fields, and bring their practical workplace experience and knowledge to each engagement. They are well placed to help in the personal development of delivery and support staff and operational managers taking on their first delivery governance roles.

A mentor is not there to advise the mentee as to the design of solutions or how they should be implemented, nor to actually create any specific product. Neither will the mentor recommend solutions to problems, but rather guide the mentee towards solutions.

A coach on the other hand should be far more proactive. Think of a swimming coach. The coach definitely does not simply ask the swimmer questions and help them bring out their own solutions to problems. The coach helps point out problems, makes very definite suggestions, and sometimes even intervenes physically to help the swimmer do the right thing.

We believe that the person being coached or mentored should be encouraged to take a practive stance, that of an 'active learner'. They need to be trained in the skills and processes of knowledge elicitation and interviewing. They should then take a more active, leading role - like an investigative reporter or an industrial spy - keep digging until you find what they need.

From an organisational perspective, coaching is an important developmental pathway as it allows the organisation to capture and disseminate lessons learned, mitigate any risk associated with the use of inexperienced delivery managers, reinforce organisational programme and project management methods and provide support to delivery team members in a cost effective manner.

From an individual's viewpoint, coaching and mentoring provide a sounding board and support mechanism as the person moves into unfamiliar territory.

Here are some of the ways that coaching and mentoring can happen:

  • The Socratic Coach – asks lots of probing questions;
  • The Hands-On Coach – shows people a way to solve a problem, but leaves it to the individual to mimic or do something different;
  • The Intervention Coach – mostly observes and at key moments intervenes to help an individual choose a specific path of action;
  • The Guiding Coach – provides constant (usually gentle) reminders to help an individual keep withing a specific path of action (guide rails)

All our coaches and mentors work on the basis of the following principles:

  • Voluntary commitment;
  • Absolute confidentiality;
  • Lasting impartiality;
  • Unequivocal respect;
  • Equality of coachee and coach (eye to eye level).

Our Offerings

We are able to offer general organisational mentoring and coaching support across all of our areas of expertise. We have also 'productised' our offerings in specific areas:

  • Project Management coaching and mentoring;
  • Programme Management coaching and mentoring;
  • Delivery support office coaching and mentoring;
  • Value Management coaching and mentoring;
  • Delivery Governance coaching and mentoring.

To find out more about how we can support your organisation and staff through mentoring and coaching, contact us today.

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