A coaching partnership is designed to provide the coachee with insights, new perspectives, and practices that he or she could not achieve alone. We are all capable of pausing and self-reflection. For example, some of us practice daily journalling, mindfulness, and meditation. These are very helpful. And partnering with a coach supercharges our self-discovery process. This improves our leadership competencies and ability to engage with colleagues who have different world views and interpret things differently from us.
By asking perceptive questions a coach assists us to illuminate our blind spots, our habitual behaviors and assumptions. And as we have learned through neuroscience, when we have an insight, rather than being told what to do or receiving advice, we own that information and are more likely to sustain the new understanding, attitude, belief or behavior to change how we respond to challenges.
As the coachee articulates his or her issue, the coach observes and listens deeply, without judgment or a predetermined solution. The coach mirrors what he or she has seen, heard, or felt to the coachee.
In my case, I have experienced the benefits of coaching both as a coachee – when I was an Executive Vice President in a global financial services company – and as a coach. As a coaches, I learned how to supplement my abilities to support and encourage my reports by being more assertive and setting boundaries. As leaders we not only need to nurture, but we also need to make hard decisions and set standards.
My coaching clients have often reached their leadership roles due to their expertise and knowledge. The negative consequences of this is that they can find it hard to delegate, to listen to alternative perspectives, to ask for help and to cope with the unknown. They have built their reputations on ‘knowing it all’ and ‘having all the answers’. Leading in times of complexity and with teams of diverse communication and working styles, my clients have learned that they can no longer operate from the view ‘it’s my way or the highway’.
By uncovering their default habits and practising different ways of engaging with their colleagues, calibrating what works and doesn’t work, and embedding their learning, they have increased their trust in, and between, their colleagues. My clients are more able to facilitate open discussions where challenges and alternative interpretations are welcomed. They have become more aware of what motivates or impedes their team members and they have become more flexible leaders. As a result employee engagement and business performance have improved.
While mentoring shares aspects of one-to-one coaching conversations, the fundamental difference is that a mentor offers advice, suggestions and perspectives from his or her own experiences. The mentor has usually achieved what the mentee is trying to accomplish. The mentor can point the mentee in the right direction and encourage the mentee to take on roles or initiatives, that he or she may not have considered possible.
I have had mentors who helped me by outlining the procedures necessary to address bullying in the workplace, or who have encouraged me to put myself forward for leadership roles. And as a mentor, I particularly appreciate the reciprocal nature of the relationship. My mentees are usually much younger than me. They keep me in touch with trends and perspectives that I am not aware of or familiar with. And I encourage them to put themselves forward for awards, connect them to experts within my network, and point out the pros and cons of how I tackled issues in my professional or personal life.
Founder, SC Executive Coaching