When should you be a mentor or a coach?

When should you be a mentor or a coach?

By Arbresh Useini, 5. November 2018

The role of the responsive leader is based on the need for soft skills, business drive, a holistic understanding of the dynamics within the organization, and nurturing social capital. This requires that the responsive leader is both a coach and a mentor. When talking about coaching, mentoring, and teaching there is a layer of delegation involved. How much do you delegate in which role?

You must master both coaching and mentoring, and apply it with situational leadership both towards the individual employees and towards the team as an entity.
– Erik Korsvik Østergaard, The Responsive Leader

Whether you are a coach or a mentor depends on the situation you are in – and it also depends on the employee or team. Sometimes there is even a need for a teacher, but nevertheless you must know the role that is required of you in a particular situation – also known as situational leadership.

Situational leadership and the swift between roles

As a coach, you’re a facilitator for driving different ideas, understandings, and reflections. A coach asks questions and guides the employee to seek answers themselves. The timeframe is short, and has an outcome set by both the coach and the coachee. Focus and agenda are often performance driven, and the outcome should be specific and measurable with signs of improvement. Through questions, the coach can provoke the coachee to make positive movements, that will result in recognizing their own behavior and make better decisions to accomplish their desired goal.

As a mentor, you’re can have attitude, opinions, multiple views, and experience – and a role that can voice them. A mentor comes with specific suggestions to the challenges the mentee is experiencing. The timeframe is long – for some it can be a whole career life-timeframe. Here, the outcome is set by the mentee. Focus and agenda are development driven, and the outcome can change and has a more holistic approach. Whereas in the coaching role, the coach asks all the questions, in mentoring the mentee typically asks the questions. A mentor does not need to have a certain expertise but should give THEIR experiences to the mentee.

As a teacher, you teach one skill or concept and should be determent to increase a capability. In short, the method is more direct than the two others.

Choosing the right approach

Overall, it is your responsibility, as a leader, to choose the best possible role to encourage the team. It comes down to how much delegation you give your team.

When teaching, you have the most responsibility as a leader. When mentoring, you are in an agreeable and participating role, which means you have half the responsibility. When coaching, you are fully delegating the task of deciding on actions.

When is what a good idea?

In the role of the teacher, it is often a tell, sell or consulting interaction that you see between the leader and the employees. It all comes down to which situation your team is in. If the situation is critical, telling and selling might be the answer. You must be authorial, and let the employees know what to do, and just let them do it. In selling you move from being the teacher to the mentoring role. Though it’s not fully in the mentoring role yet. If the team needs help to get the job don, then supporting is a better solution.

More ideally, if your team is in a calm environment and they would like more responsibility, mentoring throughout participating can be your answer. This means you’ll go up the curve and move towards more team control. In this state, there is no need to give detailed orders. It is a much more consulting state, where the employees are capable of doing the tasks almost without managing control.

The goal is to make sure that employees are empowered, and have mandate to secure that competencies are present in the team. When or if the team has the control, the energy level is at its highest. Your team will be enthusiastic, and a coaching role will be useful in this state. A coach is a short time solution, were focus should be on personal developments, issues and self-improved goals.

The purpose of a coaching leader is to emphasize the individual capabilities. Throughout personal development employees can be aware and confident about their competences. A coach does not give opinions, but should focus on an open dialogue, where the coachee gives the answers themselves.

When fully delegating, some employees experience, that they get paralyzed. In such a situation, moving left in the figure, mentoring or even teaching can be a solution.

Write down your tasks and start delegating

My advice is to start writing down all tasks you’re responsible for, and look at which tasks can be delegated – and how. You will see who in your team can handle the various tasks. Secondly, you must match your expectation with your team to see which tasks can be distributed responsibly.

Therefore, be both a mentor and a coach to achieve the responsive delegation where employees are both committed and competent, so they can achieve a team control with a minimal management control but still maintaining or striving to have moments that matters.

No matter what level of delegation you as a leader choose, the most important thing is, that you and your employees agrees on the level of delegation.

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