Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Mentoring is not same as the coaching


Budhha went to great pains to understand secrets of life. Gautam Buddha realized the ultimate truth and was in possession of pure knowledge. Then there was a sudden need felt to spread his wisdom to reinvigorate the thought mechanism and life of people. He chose five mentees and his task was to groom and equip them with his core principles and practices. With those five mentees he laid the foundation of a movement and a strong organization devoted to upliftment of mankind not meant for pecuniary advantage. He saw them as performers helping them hone their abilities and advised them on navigating new challenges. Buddha mentored them. He documented his principles and trained his disciples’ thoughts so as they can pass the wisdom to others that till date it is being preserved without an iota of change. He defined the process of knowledge transfer down the hierarchy line. Buddha invented modus operandi of teacher and disciple relation that even after thousands of years his movement is going smooth with no alterations and his principles and practices are carved in stone. Buddha accomplished his mission in a role of mentor leading thoughts of the people. On the same lines business leaders are busy taking a leaf from Budhha’s book of successful leadership structuring their roles following his footsteps. In a new role of mentor they are busy in looking out for mentees with whom they will share the secret formula of business to make it as a legacy, to make a business system that is loaded in favor of gen Y.

There is a substantial paradigm shift noticed when it comes to the concept of leadership. It’s now more about coaching than command. From every captain it is being deserved that he should coach his subordinates. In order to survive, the organizations have realized that first generation leaders should pass their knowledge and wisdom to coming generation leader. Days of “One man show” seems to be outmoded. Now organization leaders wish that people should remember it as a stalwart brand for generations and to achieve this purpose mentoring is new buzz word.

Normally mentoring is an activity that is being looked upon as post retirement activity where you train a team. When you choose to become a mentor it is not a time to handover the reins of power. Mentoring is a logical progression a far bigger role then leadership. Mentoring shouldn’t be mistaken as coaching. Coaching is done to achieve short term goals and for immediate returns whereas mentoring is a long inning to achieve a vision. Coaching is a common string tying mentoring and leadership. Ideally a Chief Mentor Officer is a person who is seasoned Chief Executive officer. To become a mentor a CEO should detach self from daily operational responsibilities. As a coach mentor helps team to achieve short term goals of increasing profitability of the company. In principle he shortens the learning cycle of a mentee and accelerates his performance. As a Chief mentor officer he focus on organization and its leadership and design a strategy that will help leadership of company to sustain for coming hundred years.

A manager today cannot plan a career growth for self keeping career plan of his colleague at back burner. To climb the organizational ladder one has to adopt part time coaching/ mentoring techniques along with career planning of peers. This is a typical boss and peer relationship. However CEO and mentor relation is like of a teacher and seeker. As a skilled teacher mentor coaches his CEO to deal with macro anticipatory problem that business faces. Mentor equips CEO with techniques of dealing with global competition, governments, global client without interfering in his job. If a CEO discovers a true leader with potential then he must start pondering over his role as that of Mentor. CEO as a business leader will take care of financial years whereas mentor takes care of company’s growth in coming decades.
In three cases a CEO must ponder upon to become a CMO. First if he is realizing that he has achieved and shrouded with feeling of have been there and done that. Secondly he feels burn out and full of battle fatigue and lastly, there is an overwhelming need where company requires new direction and aggressive growth. In all three scenarios he must ponder to become a mentor. He must select mentees and take them under his wing. He should groom mentees to face challenges in a given function he specializes in. He should become a sounding board. Mentoring helps in building an informal environment where people can air their grievance at the meeting to mentor. Most important, it’s all about shaping people’s perspectives. It’s to prepare the leaders who are well equipped with information outside the realm of their day to day job. It could be stakeholder management, winning investor’s confidence, protecting environment and designing strategies to assure sustainability of company during turbulent times.


There is a sudden surge in mentoring programs and it is top on the agenda of top management. They are feeling to accelerate the development of top performers and their long term retention either as employee in many cases or as a partner in exceptional cases. Mentoring is integral part of leadership. It’s duty of every leader to retain talent within his circle of influence. But a mentor goes outside circle of influence and augment span of his leadership. He can help mediocre performers, revitalizing midcareer executives, and closing skill and ability gaps on the staff. He deals with soft issues that have direct impact on balance sheet of the company. A more correct perception about mentoring is that it is no longer a feel good initiative. Mentoring is a valid strategy for developing individuals while saving the organization dollars. A developed and motivated individual add millions to balance sheet of the company. Not every organization can have a Chief Mentor officer as it largely depends on the context of work and nature of business. But every organization should have a mentoring program at all the levels. Retention rates are very low and there is a shortage of talent. Those who are performers are always hunting for an opportunity, a better organization. These people are to be tapped and preserved. Their potential should be unleashed by mentors with perfect business coaching. It is a soft issue and difficult to measure but mentoring program should be looked upon as an investment.
A seasoned leader can list down all the mistakes that his peers are likely stumble into. He can point out top five missteps that young managers take during startup. As a perfect coach he trains the guns of top performers when it comes to issues that can doom a company. As a mentor, a leader is in a league of his own.

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