A frequent question for Springboard guest speakers, and inspirational speakers elsewhere, is do you have a coach or mentor and do I need one to be successful? During Springboard, we know that our participants make a great job of coaching each other. But can more formalised coaching be of benefit?
I’ve recently completed further training in workplace coaching and wanted to share some of my learning here and see if this coincides with your ideas in this area.
The first thing to get clear in your mind is whether you want a coach, a mentor or whether counselling would be more suitable. Definitions differ, but the important thing to understand is your requirements. Generally speaking…
Mentoring is where a senior or experienced individual in a specific field or profession provides ongoing support for a more junior individual, probably not a direct report of theirs. The idea being for the mentor to provide specific, profession-related experience and knowledge to help the individual progress.
This can be for a short period or over many years. For example, the Head of Security at a bank may mentor a Security Manager in how to achieve a senior management position. This type of support is extremely valuable in gaining specific workplace advice and insider knowledge of a particular field or organisation. A senior police officer I interviewed recently said, “Having a mentor at key stages in my career has been invaluable, they have provided insight and understanding, definitely accelerating my progress.”
If you are looking for advice on a particular career path or profession, then mentoring could be for you. If your organisation offers it to you, I would grab it with both hands. Someone who has trodden the path before you can provide crucial insight and advice.
Coaching in the workplace offers a different kind of insight: it supports personal development, mainly to improve performance and satisfaction. This may include a particular skill you want to improve, such as organising time, a difficult situation or relationship at work you would like to resolve, the time to reflect on a heavy workload and how to prioritise it, or how to achieve promotion. The aim of coaching is to support you to achieve the goals you set and not just provide general support. A busy senior executive I know said, “Coaching gave me time to reflect on my approach and gave me clarity in dealing with some complex situations.”
A coach uses a range of techniques and skills, including questioning, observing and reflecting back to support learning and development. The coach enables you to set goals, reflect on your progress and behaviour and plan to take action against these goals. You may be clear from the outset about what you want to achieve or you may need help clarifying the aspect of your work to focus on.
Colleagues inside your organisation or similar organisations may provide coaching. For example, local authorities in neighbouring areas have set up schemes to offer reciprocal coaching to each other’s staff. Alternatively, professional coaches can be contracted in.
I think it is always a really good sign of a prospective employer if an organisation strives to have a coaching culture and it is positively encouraged and supported. These organisations realise that coaching can make a significant contribution to personal development and thereby progress towards the organisation’s goals.
So, how does the coaching take place? It’s normally a series of regular meetings over a set period to address a particular goal. Six weekly meetings of about an hour are typical. The goals for the programme are set at the first session. These are reviewed and progress against them assessed each time. The goals can be adjusted during the session if needed.
A vast array of coaching tools is available, some have come from the world of business, or from training and development, many tools have their basis in Neuro Linguist Programming.
For example, creating frames and frame switching, where the coach encourages you to look at a situation from another angle, like looking a problem from your team’s angle, rather than just your personal view.
Or, asking you to keep a diary, to record your thoughts and emotions, which is a great way to release hidden feelings or to spot routines and patterns that are having an impact. Or, perhaps, to carry out an exercise to examine your limiting beliefs, which may be holding you back, and help you to find challenging questions that will debunk this belief.
The answer to the question do I need a mentor or coach is really for each individual to decide. But I believe it can make a big impact on career progression and personal development and recommend you seize the opportunity should it arise. But what do you think?
Andrea Berkoff is a Springboard trainer with more than ten years experience delivering programmes in the City of London. Additionally, Andrea is Editor of City Security magazine (citysecuritymagazine.com). This quarterly publication, produced in partnership with the City of London Crime Prevention Association, aims to share good practice, innovation and professionalism across the security industry. Follow us on Twitter @CitySecuritymag.
Andrea also supports the board of the Women’s Security Society with PR, marketing, social media and events. She is a member of the committee that organises the City of London International Women’s Day event.
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