A reflection on Coaching vs Mentoring + Awareness

coach vs mentor

Having always had an interest in ‘what makes us tick’, over the past 30 years I have formally and informally studied many aspects of human behaviour and performance. As I write this, I have just turned 50 years young. Upon reaching the age of 39, I came to the realisation that life wasn’t going how I wanted it to, not that I had much of a plan. I experienced a year of intense frustration – post-divorce, post-redundancy, and at a time when it became apparent that I needed to change what I was doing in order to get different results – certainly from a relationship and a career perspective. I didn’t know what I wanted to do – just that I don’t want more of the same…

During this time, I re-connected with an old friend – I shall call him Ali. He had been through similarly challenging times. After listening to my tale of woe, he suggested getting into personal development, in order to develop some new perspectives on life. I went along to monthly personal development groups in Birmingham and listened to a different speaker reach month on a wide variety of subjects including: health, wealth, positive thinking and relationships. This gradually helped me to reflect on my state of ‘woe’ and upon my potential for much greater things.

reflection ~

  • The throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it.
  • Serious thought or consideration.

These ‘PD’ meetings gave me the lift and the kick I needed. They opened up my thinking, got me focused on new possibilities and motivated to change. I had come across personal development a few years earlier; like so many people, I bought a few books and attended a few workshops. Yet, nothing much had changed – we call it ‘shelf-development’. So here I was again, presented with an opportunity to change, learn and grow.

Although I liked the positivity, I was also somewhat sceptical about some of the ‘hype’ and also wary of the authenticity of some of the speakers. I wanted to see firm evidence of their success and not just that they had a positive vision and a plan to change/change the world. It is all too easy to be either sceptical, or taken in by hype. It is often hard to know which to choose…

Real Opportunities vs ‘Snake Oil’

How do you tell a great opportunity and the right path forward for you to take versus hype, ‘snake oil’ and inappropriate or ‘passed their sell by date’ opportunities? It seems all to easy to be either overly sceptical or too gullable.

Scepticism is one of the causes of ‘shelf-development’ – an easy excuse/reason to do nothing or at least not put sufficient effort and intention into change and growth. Of course our ego – in the form of pride, significance, fear of change, laziness, avoidance of failure, anxiety, avoidance of anything hard etc. etc. provides us with plenty of incentives and excuses.

Conversely, being too open-minded and not critical-minded enough, can lead to us being taken in and somewhat duped to part with our hard-earned cash.

The solution to this conundrum is to know yourself and not to simply buy into or dismiss someone else’s solution.

The point is – that it is their solution, not yours. It may or may not work for you. It may have worked for them then, but often such tales of success are also a tale of being in the right place at the right time – a time and place (e.g. that of early adopter of a business opportunity) that may now have passed.

This is where coaching and some ‘tough love’ can help us to get focussed and motivated. A good coach will (i) ask great questions to get us to associate with the pain and short-coming of not changing and will (ii) hold us accountable.

However, few coaches are sufficiently aware of the individual differences in people’s personality, motivation, egotype, strengths and weaknesses.  Ideally, you need to be able to step into the coachee’s model of the world and distinguish between real ands imagined barriers and also over-inflated/unrealistic aspirations. For that you need a knowledgeable mentor to help you to become far more self-aware.

Coaching vs Mentoring

One of the premises of coaching is that you can coach anyone about anything – in the sense that you don’t have to be an expert in the particular subject matter or area that a person wants coaching in. You just have to be a good coach and ask great questions to illicit intuitive responses from within the coachee. Personally, I believe this approach to have its limitations. As an executive coach, I find that my many years working with and in small and large businesses and working as a strategic marketing coach, gives me the ability to ask much better, more pertinent questions than if I had no such experience. As a relationship coach, I’d go a step further and suggest that people don’t have the innate knowledge and frame of reference to be able to answer many of the most telling and searching questions about relationships – that need asking. Secondly, coaches (especially relationship coaches) often don’t have the experience or specialist knowledge to be able to ask many/most of the right questions. This is because:

  • There is a lack of good relationship models/philosophies out ‘there’ and also many conflicting points of view.
  • The coach will inevitably apply their own experiences and understanding. A little knowledge is dangerous…
  • We are all very different. We are ‘wired’ very differently, and this isn’t just about the differences between men and women. There is no effective one-size fits all relationship philosophy. So whether it is a taught philosophy, or what the coach believes has worked for them – it is unlikely to work for another individual, or even less likely, a couple with very different personalities, experiences and models of the world.

For all kinds of personal development – including relationship advice, this is why we are big fans of the following approach:

  1. Education and training. Give people more knowledge about themselves and a good introduction (at least) and to the range of motivations and behaviours that different people are likely to exhibit and experience in the situation that is being examined.
    • For example – in business, understanding how the different personalities and ego-types are likely to behave, their strengths and weaknesses, suitability for different roles and within team-dynamics.
    • In relationships, understanding how the unique fears and motivations of each of the very different models of the world, will be expressed though their human needs, relationship needs and values. Developing awareness, understanding and an empathy for the differing pace in which people prefer to communicate and make decisions, plus different levels of assertiveness and boundary setting.
  2. Mentoring
    • Take the knowledge and increased awareness from step (1) and apply it to the specific situation and individual(s) involved.
    • Share the benefit of your own experience – the successes, the failures and lessons learned. Be clear that these are your lessons, so not necessarily generally applicable to everyone else. Demonstrate the validity of the process with examples of how it has worked for other individuals, couples or teams.
    • Establish the personality/ego-type of the client(s). Guide them through a more in-depth understanding of who they are and what makes them tick.
    • Explore how to meet your own and others’ needs and match each other’s communication styles. Learn about each others’ preferred pace of communication and decision making.
  3. Coaching
    • Establish which fears and limiting beliefs are/may hold the client back.
    • Get the coachee to connect with the pleasure and joy of taking massive action that is authentically in-alignment with their core motivations and values, recognising how such actions will meet their needs.
    • Get the coachee to connect with the pain and regret of not putting what they have learned into good practise i.e. real self-development as opposed to (book) ‘shelf-development’.
    • Set goals and an action plan accordingly. get the client to hold themselves accountable (and each other, if a couple or team).

This approach is the most effective way to develop emotional intelligence i.e. self-awareness, self-management, awareness of others, appropriate management and conduct/behaviour in interacting with others i.e. in relationships, management, leadership, training and change scenarios. As you may have read in other blog articles on this site:-

  • Emotional intelligence has the biggest positive impact on successful leadership and is the most lacking leadership trait – most desired by employers – see our articles on Emotional Intelligence – Andy’s Perspective and Level 5 Leadership for more on this.
  • Emotional intelligence is at the heart of successful relationships – intimate or otherwise; this Who Am I? article on self-awareness explains why.

Reflecting upon our own journey into personal development and self-discovery over the past ten years – it has become ever-clearer that the most common approaches have major limitations i.e:

  • The modelling of others’ success – widely taught in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and coaching theory.
  • Teaching others based on what appears to have worked for you.
  • Talking about the problem in a counselling/therapy fashion.

These limitations are reflected by the fact that so many clients keep having to come back for more coaching, more therapy or more workshops.

So we’ve developed a sound and robust process and philosophy which is flexible enough to adapt to the very different models of the world of each of our clients. We teach them about human behaviour and human potential, we mentor them to establish their own model and potential, we coach them and help them to become their own best coach and in the case of couples, families or teams, to hold each other accountable in the most positive of ways. This process is accessible in a number of formats. Use the following links to learn more for Individuals, Couples & Families or for Organisations.

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