When businesses need to improve all-round performance, it is common for them to turn to high-quality business skills training programmes. Aside from enhancing some of the specific skills that are required to perform project tasks and improve day-to-day operations, these training programmes can also help to build coaching and mentoring skills.
This development of coaching and mentoring skills among experienced, senior employees can be invaluable, allowing them to impart wisdom and contribute to the progress of less experienced or less senior workers. In this article, we take a closer look at the various ways coaching and mentoring can contribute to improved performance.
Coaching or Mentoring?
The terms “coaching” and “mentoring” are sometimes used interchangeably and although they are broadly similar – in the sense that they are both designed to improve performance – they actually differ in a number of key ways too. For this reason, a good coach may not necessarily be a good mentor, and vice versa.
Coaching is geared towards helping a person to unlock their own potential. A coach may not necessarily have direct experience in the same role, but they will be able to set targets, focus on behaviours and steer somebody towards improvement. A mentor, on the other hand, will have first-hand experience and will offer specific, practical advice.
Both coaching and mentoring skills will be developed by any comprehensive business skills training programme, but the key difference between the two is that a mentor will have walked the walk, allowing them to lead by example, whereas a coach may have travelled a slightly different path and will tend to focus on the big picture more.
The Benefits of Coaching
With these differences in mind, the benefits of coaching become easier to understand. Coaching will allow project managers and other team leaders to focus on individual employees, look at their particular strengths and weaknesses, come up with basic plans that will allow them to address those weaknesses, and set challenges to guide progress.
“The role of the coach is to help you unleash your potential,” Susanne Madsen explained in a previous blog post, Mentoring and Coaching in Project Management: “The way a coach does that is by asking open questions and by fully listening to your views, desires and concerns. The way I would sum up coaching is therefore the activity of empowering an individual to find the answers for themselves.”
For those who are on the receiving end, coaching can assist with personal development and improve motivation levels.
These benefits then extend to the project team and wider business too. For instance, boosting motivation and helping individuals to work on their shortcomings will increase productivity and overall workplace performance. This, in turn, can improve morale and reduce staff turnover, which can then help overall financial results.
In many ways, mentoring can be seen as a less formal approach to improving performance than coaching. At its core, it is about a one-to-one relationship between an experienced member of the team and a less experienced member of the team. Generally speaking, both will have done the same job, or at least a very similar one.
A mentor serves as a role model and must be willing to share their knowledge, wisdom and experience with the person they are mentoring. While coaching tends to revolve around the schedule of the coach, the agenda for mentoring interactions will usually be set by the person being mentored, based on when they require help, advice or support.
Again, mentoring can go hand-in-hand with team building courses, helping to generate team spirit and facilitate effective communication. These advantages can then lead to improved collaboration and greater efficiency. The resulting morale boost can also reduce the chances of either the mentor or mentee wanting to leave the organisation.
The Last Word
While the broad benefits associated with coaching and mentoring are very similar, the specifics of the two techniques can be rather different. Nevertheless, both have a valuable role to play in helping businesses and project teams to improve performance, whether it is in terms of productivity, morale, collaboration or overall financial results.
To learn more about how to structure your approach to coaching and mentoring and to learn techniques to make you more effective with this skill, discover Strategy Execution’s Coaching and Mentoring for Improved Performance course.