“We’d like a coach who has experience in a senior leadership role in our industry.”
We have this conversation regularly. Coaching is still very misunderstood, and as a result we are often asked to serve purposes beyond what’s really our zone of expertise and the best application of coaching.
If your view is that in order to support the leader the best way possible you want to match them with someone who’s done what they are doing and who will share their experience and expertise, then you are seeking a mentor – someone who can share what they know and what they learned on their journey. A mentoring relationship is for the most part a one-way download of learning designed to prevent the mentee from making some of the mistakes the mentor made, and to give the mentee a sounding board for role- and organization- and industry-specific issues and questions.
If you are trying to develop leaders as leaders – agnostic to industry but specific to getting results with and through people – then coaching is the support mechanism. Coaching is a developmental relationship design to accelerate the individual’s growth as a leader and is well-suited to situations where the leader is taking on or being groomed for a bigger and/or more complex role.
A mentor has domain knowledge specific to the company and/or the industry.
A coach has domain knowledge specific to coaching.
Ideally every great leader has both a mentor and a coach, but a mentor is more likely going to come from either within the organization or elsewhere in the industry whereas a coach, in order to bring the necessary objectivity, is best external. A coach may not know anything specific to the industry, but a mentor is unlikely a specialist in human development, leadership, behaviour and neuroscience.
We can provide case studies – dozens, maybe hundreds of them – where we have been a pivotal part of a leaders’ ability to be successful, while having zero direct experience in their function or industry.
And if the individual really needs a mentor, then they should absolutely have one. But that’s not what we do.
In order for coaching to be successful we must adhere to the boundaries of what coaching really is – and not allow ourselves to be invited or persuaded into situations where coaching is not really what’s required or being asked for.
So – bring us into the right situations with the right people for the right purpose. Because in addition to the fact that we really like our work to be successful, one of the reasons that the coaching profession still struggles on some level is because too many coaches allow themselves to get hired for the wrong reasons.