Any organization or entity should owe its success to efficient leadership and management. As such, everyone in an organization has to put in more effort towards the organization’s set objectives. The management’s hierarchical organization right from the top to the bottom should be dedicated to achieving a common goal. It is a matter of working at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, not all staffs are trained to fit some jobs; they need coaching or mentoring to suit the varied jobs.
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This is where the axiom “leading by example” takes shape. It is not just about the workplace. Other institutions such as learning institutions, hospitals and correctional centres too need mentors and coaches to guide learners and victims of various circumstances to come to terms with life.
Mentoring and coaching are terms that are often used interchangeably to mean the same thing. Nevertheless, some authors attempted to give each of the terms a distinct meaning. Brockbank (2006) differentiated mentoring and coaching by referring to mentoring as an action that involves sponsoring one’s career development, whereas he referred to coaching as function of developmental activities under a manager’s control. On the other hand, Johnson (2007) suggested that coaching involves someone outside the workplace giving advice; while mentoring involves close supervision (for example at the workplace) in order to address specific problems.
Furthermore, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIDP) highlights that mentoring is an ongoing process that can last for a long time and usually involves a mentor that is more experienced than the mentee (CIDP, 2007). On the other hand, the CIDP describes coaching as an activity that is usually done within a set duration and involves a coach who should not necessarily be more experienced than the learner, unless the activity is specific and requires specific skills. It is therefore clear that it is impossible to distinguish clearly between the two terms, only clarification serves the purpose.
Overall, mentoring involves a relationship between more and less experience professional as elucidated above. In order enhance their staffs, managers of organizations are expected to guide and develop them.
Mentoring and coaching work hand in hand for the success of individuals or organizations. At the organization level, decision-making requires the highest level of effectiveness (CIDP, 2007). Executive coaching can bring a tremendous improvement in an organization. Perhaps the main ideas behind mentoring and coaching are, according to Turner (2005 p24), to provide socialization and training, to prepare staffs for senior management positions, improve their skills and increase their diversity.
As mentioned earlier, not all staffs are trained to suit all types of jobs in an organization, as there is always a bias towards one area. However, mentoring and coaching while at the workplace will do a great deal of diversifying the workers’ skills. In addition, mentoring and coaching enhance general development of individuals, which in turn is reflected in their performance at the workplace or in any other forms of association (Turner, 2005).
At the workplace, it is axiomatic that great leaders are moulded by experience, their work insight, their growth at a personal level and by mentoring (Novick, Murrow & Mays 2008 p292). Most promotions, if not all are usually based on an employee’s expertise and experience. These invaluable attributes are gained progressively through mentoring and coaching. It is also worth noting that employees who are frequently subjected to mentoring and sessions of coaching can do delicate tasks at the workplace (Novick et al p292).
A case of mentoring at Griffith University, Australia
Suppose a Japanese student has just joined Griffith University and is not familiar with the environment and therefore needs guidance, a local student who is familiar with the university can be his or her mentor. Among the problems likely to be facing the new student is the inability to communicate in English. Language is among the reasons that call for mentoring programs (Odiorne, 1990 p187). The first step is for the mentor to set a relationship with the new student or the mentee. In the relationship, the mentor and mentee get to know each other well in issues such as what each one is doing and their ambitions in life.
The Japanese student here has a chance to explain what he or she feels about being in Australia, his or her personal interests, and the difficulties of being in Australia. The mentor therefore knows precisely which direction to steer to during the mentoring process. The mentee usually benefits more when the mentor knows the exact areas of difficulty he or she has (Turner, 2005 p25). Furthermore, according to Lansberg (1999, p184), the perspectives of mentoring and coaching should be directed towards specific needs. At the initial stage of mentoring, the mentee is able to begin solving some problems ion his or her own, for example locating the library, knowing where the eateries are, and so on. This is after a successful orientation by the mentor.
The second stage is to make the mentee know the study and familiarise him or her even more at Griffith University. Familiarisation is the first step for the success of any mentoring program (Newburn, Shiner, Groben, & Young, 2005 pp72-73). The mentor can provide to the mentee resources that are necessary for survival on campus such as websites to locate particular departments, sections of the library or academic material. The mentee will of course be able to surmise if the options available are sufficient or not. The mentee can always communicate to the mentor in case any problem arises in the location of resources.
A critical aspect to assess mentoring and coaching is to evaluate the success and failure of both phenomena. Among the successes of mentoring and coaching are positive expectations and empowerment of the people involved (Megginson et al, 2006). The mentor will be able to evaluate the success or failure of the mentoring process during the second stage. Good planning methods and problem solving skills are usually cultivated when the process is successful.
The third stage of mentoring is to focus on the mentee’s full adoption into the new system. Here, the mentor and mentee discuss on the previous sessions the mentoring process. Both will find it interesting, as they have to share about their experience. The mentee has to share his or her own perception of the process and say about the benefits of the process (Brooks, 1999 p25).
Building blocks of mentoring and coaching
A practical program for mentoring is a seven-step building block as suggested by Megginson et al (2006). The steps involved are identifying the need for the process, gathering evidence to support the need, motivating or setting targets to be achieved by the process, setting a plan on how to achieve the targets, practicing the possible opportunities, observing and giving feedback , and setting support for any observed setbacks (Megginson et al). This systematic approach is ideal, as it will help one to identify areas of weakness and set the corrective measures (Turner, 2005). The GROW (Goal, Reality, Opportunity and Will) model highlighted by Turner (2005) gives a summary of the ambitions and targets.
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There must be a goal to be achieved, and a reality to achieve the goal. If this is missing then it is the point to look for opportunities that will result in achievement of the target. Finally, there must be a will for the next course of action. In practice, a mentoring program will involve the mentor and mentee getting to know each other and sharing the expectations of the mentoring program (Turner, 2005 p24). After discussions and familiarization, it is time to get into business where the mentor gets to know the areas of weakness of the mentee while at the same time assessing his or her strengths. The mentee has an opportunity to learn and give feedback to the mentor on the effectiveness of the process (Turner, 2005 p25).
Formal and informal mentoring programs
An organizational has at its disposal a choice between formal and informal modes of mentoring. Under formal mentoring, a firm can hire experienced professionals to offer the mentoring services (Megginson et al, 2006). It can as well prepare its own staffs to serve each other with necessary skills. Alternatively, the firm can link training programs to mentoring. In informal mentoring, the firm is at liberty to provide skills through networking programs or recognizing and awarding experienced staffs who offer mentoring services while on the job (Megginson et al). Individuals such as university students will always use informal mentoring.
Obstacles to coaching and mentoring
Coaching and mentoring are expensive undertakings when professionals are hired to perform the tasks. Furthermore, they may prove irrelevant if the mentors or coaches are not in good terms with their subjects or mentees. Gender is one obstacle that is pronounced. Johnson (2007) noted that women are disadvantaged when it comes to mentoring. Perhaps the reason for this is that in the past the majority of mentors were men who did not have particular considerations for the opinions of the female mentees (Johnson, 2007).
Benefits of mentoring and coaching
Well conducted mentoring and coaching exercises have advantages not only to individuals but also to organizations. At the organization level, there is reduced absenteeism and increased loyalty and commitment due to change in the employees’ attitude. The organizational culture gets a new impression as employees at different levels mingle during mentoring. There is a lot more: the organization becomes more effective in delivering its services (Megginson et al, 2006).
Mentoring and coaching are pertinent to the dissemination of knowledge at various levels. The processes, when effectively done, are likely to bring positive change in individuals and hence increase the productivity of organizations. A pertinent question is whether a firm should source mentors and coaches from outside or develop their own. Individual such as university students mentor each other.
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