Coaching & Mentoring Pt2
Over the last two years, my view on the transformative power that great coaching can have on you has dramatically changed.
The impact of this has led to me training to be a CMI authorised Executive and Business Coach. And Executive and Leadership Coaching is one of the fastest-growing solution areas that the Rencai Group offer SMB business leaders.
In Pt1 of this series, we considered the differing interpretations of what Coaching and Mentoring are and how these approaches could be utilised for a SMB business.
In this second part, I’d like to briefly reflect on my own experience of coaching & mentoring and offer some reflection on why some applications or approaches worked better than others.
I’ve had both good and bad experiences of being mentored in my professional career.
Reflecting back on the different definitions from my first post in this series Pt 1 , where Suzanne Faures definition resonated with me.
“Mentoring is a supportive learning relationship between a caring individual who shares knowledge, experience and wisdom with another individual who is ready and willing to benefit from this exchange, to enrich their professional journey”
I can think of a number of instances where my direct manager or leader of the business I worked in had a big impact on me as an ‘unofficial mentor’. Sean McCleary and Keith Southern filled this role for me completely in my largely enjoyable time working for Sthree.
As mentioned, I see these as ‘unofficial mentors’ as we never had formal discussion that this would be the nature or value of our relationship. I believe a formal commitment in this area comes with different responsibilities.
Reflecting on why they were both great mentors for me I can draw the following conclusions. They both created high trust levels from me through leading by example. They reinforced this each and every day. In addition, they understood me well enough to provide the environment and context that inspired, motivated and challenged me in equal measure.
Reflection 1 – When selecting a suitable mentor find somebody you trust completely due to their proven competence and success in performing in a way that you aspire to do professionally.
This reflection draws me to mention an often debated point when it comes to mentors. This being that they MUST have done the role you are doing or be in the same sector or profession. While this is primarily the scenario in which a mentor-mentee relationship occurs, with the experience I now have, I do not believe this must be the case. I do however believe that you must believe that a mentor can understand ‘your world’ to be most effective.
This ties into my experience of when a mentor has not worked for me. In the earlier stages of my Rencai journey, I was keen to find support as it’s a very lonely place being a sole Director while simultaneously growing both a client list and internal team. A local business incubator connected me with one of their registered business mentors for what I hoped would be a support programme that would last 6 months. The relationship did not even get off the ground. While he was a nice guy, he was trying to advise me on how to progress a start-up business in the services sector when he had only ever worked in large Pharmaceutical businesses. He did not truly understand, and I did not trust his advice.
Reflection 2 – For a mentor to be most effective they must be able to understand the world you live in i.e. if you are part of a small fast-growth SME (with all the challenges that goes with that) a mentor from a similar business in a completely different sector can still be highly effective. As apposed to a mentor that has always worked in your sector but always worked in large enterprise size business where the business approach and support eco-system can be very different.
Coaching can have a significant impact on the growth of a leader and in turn the business they run. The ongoing challenges of a growing SME business and the relentless need for leaders to make decisions can be exhausting. I’ve had this journey. At its best, this mental pressure can make you slower to make the right decisions, and at its worst can impact your mental health making it more likely you will make wrong decisions that negatively affect you and your employees.
Considering again what a leadership coach does by reviewing the definitions in Pt 1 of this series. It’s the ICF one that resonates with me and provides the ethos for how I aspire to coach today and in the future.
The International Coaching Federation.
Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.
As with mentoring trust is again critical for an effective coach & coachee relationship. This can be different to the mentoring dynamic considered earlier as trust can be more quickly created by a combination of your coaching experience and most importantly from my perspective the ‘Contracting’ relationship established right at the start of working together. If done correctly this quickly makes you feel safe and comfortable to trust in the process that can really help explore how to improve and grow moving forward.
Contracting is a conversation that can make assumptions explicit and serves three important functions. First, contracting defines the coach’s and client’s roles and the desired results, while providing a common language for coaching and development activities.
(contracting for success, Bennett 2008)
Reflection 3 – Make sure you have a contracting conversation with your potential coach that builds your confidence they are the right coach for you based on approach and understanding of your goals and expectations.
For business leaders working regularly with a coach can be seen as a key investment in maximising the future potential for your business. In the often hectic world of a fast-growth company, prioritising time for yourself to reflect, and make critical decisions with more clarity could really be the difference in raising your personal performance to the next level and accelerating the business growth.
Many of the professionals I work and partner with closely have developed a strong competence in coaching as they see the transformative impact it can have on the businesses they have been working for and supporting for years as it has the ability to increase leadership capability across the board. Most recently I have been personally coached by Beth Hood and was so impressed by her approach that I knew she needed to become part of the Rencai family. This is now the case and I look forward to us working together to help many SMB business leaders in the future.
Reflection 4 – If you have not previously explored working with a coach to enhance your performance level, I urge you to try it as I’m confident you will not regret it.