As a manager, part of your role involves getting the best from your employees. This can be achieved through continual performance management, with the setting of specific, achievable goals followed by regular appraisals to review the situation.
However, sometimes employees will need some extra encouragement to achieve their targets. If they’re underperforming, or need bringing up to speed quickly, then they may be helped considerably through coaching and mentoring.
A definition of coaching is “unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” [Gallwey]
Arranging one-to-one coaching sessions can give an employee the opportunity to reflect on their performance and help build confidence in their own abilities. Coaching usually involves a manager:
Arranging a time to shadow the team member undertaking a set task
Taking a break to have an informal discussion about how the task went
Asking the team member to self-evaluate what went well and what could be improved
Giving feedback for them to consider
Encouraging the team member to consider whether a different approach may have led to a better outcome
Agreeing goals for the future
A widely used model for structuring a coaching session is the GROW model. This can be used to ask questions that will raise awareness and responsibility in the person being coached.
Goal – Define and agree the goal or outcome to be achieved, using SMART targets.
Reality – Reality checking to explore the situation, such as current skills levels and constraints to finding a way forward.
Options – Explore what is possible, with all the different options for solving the issues. Help the individual to generate as many good options as possible.
Will – Commit to specific actions and establish the level of motivation. What is to be done, when, and by whom.
Mentoring and coaching are separate and distinct from each other, but can often overlap. Coaching tends to be for a shorter duration in order to achieve specific goals, while mentoring can be an ongoing relationship that lasts a long time.
Mentoring can be more informal than coaching, with meetings only taking place when an individual needs some guidance from their mentor. The mentor will usually be a more senior member of the organisation, aiming to pass on skills and knowledge.
Aldred et al identified a three-stage model for the main strategies required of a mentor:
Exploration – The mentor should pro-actively explore and clarify the aims and objectives of mentoring. They should ask the mentee questions on what they’d like to learn, and what outcomes they’d like to see from their mentoring.
New understanding – Once mentoring is underway, the mentor should offer their support and counsel, give constructive feedback, and coach and demonstrate skills. This is done through asking open and closed questions to recognise the mentee’s strengths and weaknesses, so learning priorities can be identified.
Action planning – Examine the options for action and their consequences. An action plan can then be created, followed up by monitoring the progress made.