Introduction

. Mentoring

"...has emerged from a synthesis of many fields including training, adult learning, consulting, change management, the human potential movement, psychology and systems science..."

David Rock et al, 2006a

"...is around reflecting, how can I improve what I'm doing? And then making a difference in the workplace..."

Raelene Hobson as quoted by Rachel Lebihan, 2012

"...while I was CEO, I'd came to the view that leadership development was pretty important......but managers generally don't coach that well, they don't easily give difficult feedback...... so we used external coaching groups at AMP quite carefully. And I'd seen a lot of personal growth from matching coach to the executive..."
Andrew Mohl (exCEO, AMP) as quoted by Tony Boyd, 2015

. It involves some elements of these roles:

- trainer (starts with a pre-defined input, ie the training content or curriculum, and involves transferring the knowledge from trainer to learner)

- coach (starts with the needs of the learner, not with a prescribed curriculum; it is an ongoing process that focuses on enhancing current capabilities of the learner; usually, coaching is used for short-term intervention to work on a particular management issue. There are 3 approaches to coaching

i) skills (requires details, is specific such as time management, project management, etc)

ii) performance (bigger picture, broader, more personal, such as career progression, etc)

iii) professional and personal development (self-discovery, broader, more strategic/futuristic, such as Who am I? What is the business spirit? What type of leader am I?)

- counsellor (can range from giving advice on performance to admonishing for performance; it generally has a corrective purpose; focuses on behaviours and results achieved)

- consulting (where a professional opinion is sought)

To a lesser extent, mentoring also involves being an adviser, teacher, facilitator, guardian, friend and networker

. In 2011, around 60% of Australian business leaders and 72% of senior managers report working with a mentor/coach (Ann Whyte, 2012). Participating executives claim that mentoring is the most effective professional development activity they undertake and being mentored helps them gain new insights that lead to changes in behaviour.

Great mentoring relationships are reciprocal and generate an extraordinarily valuable asset. If 20 percent of the people are engaged in mentoring relationships, it will raise the quality of both thought and conversation among the other 80 percent, simply because that 20 percent will begin to create a culture of thinking and talking about more significant things.

. A manager is most likely to fail at 1 of 3 key transitional points:

i) first managerial post

ii) first general management role

iii) first time as the most senior executive, such as CEO or MD.

The skills required at each transitional point are different. As there is a broadening and wider perception required at each level of management, support activities such as mentoring, coaching, etc can help make these transitions successful.

- the skills and methods that lead to individual success as a specialist (sales, technologist, clerk, etc) are completely different from those needed to lead a team at a management level. Most new managers incorrectly assume that the new title will give them significant authority and control. They believe that they can manage their staff individually but find the main challenge is getting the team to work together effectively. Furthermore, they incorrectly assume that their main job is to keep the operations on track, rather than conceive of and drive improvements. Many young managers make the problem worse as they are fearful of asking their bosses for help; they feel that their bosses may perceive them as weak or incompetent.

- before becoming general managers, most managers run functional departments, such as sales, marketing, R & D, operations, finance, etc. The subsequent role of a general manager has additional responsibilities associated with developing business strategy, ensuring that all functional departments work together, and delivering bottom-line profitability for all functional departments.

As one goes up organisational ladder, the roles can change, eg going from a divisional to a group CFO means more exposure to treasury, funding and capital and non-financial functions such as investor relations plus handling staff who are reporting to you and who have more technical skill in their area of expertise than you do. Also, your leadership skills may need developing so that you can adequately empower, motivate and support your staff. One way to help develop new skills to handle the new situation is to have an executive coach who has expertise in these areas

- once a person assumes the position of senior executive, the role expands to include understanding what goes on in the organisation plus in the industry and elsewhere. This role requires an ability to see the "big picture"and view things in the long-term (see the section on becoming an agile organisation, etc for more details on a CEO's role).

As the senior executive

"...you have to manage a Board, you have to manage analysts, you have to manage the market, youhave to manage regulators, you have to manage the legislature, you have to manage the media. Your whole notion of decision-making changes and rather than being responsible for all the decisions, you need to set up the processes by which those decisions are made and the people who take them..."

David Morgan as quoted by Andrew Cornell, 2008

Furthermore,

"...the worker who has just been appointed to a managerial position attempts to retain earlier friendships as if nothing has changed; she does not understand that her new job requires that she listen, be listened to, and be respected, rather than that she win a contest of popularity or continue to exchange gossip or intimacies with former peers. The new board member fails to understand that she must now behave in a disinterested manner vis-a-vis the very CEO or president who courted for months and then invited her to join a select, prestigious group..."

Howard Gardner, 2006a

Any new person in a management position is well advised to do

"...lots of listening, watching, studying and conferring......needs a starting point - the best understanding available of what has happened in the company and viable options..."

Howard Gardner, 2006a

It is important to do this before making decisions and to avoid badmouthing your predecessor and/or new colleagues.

Activities such as mentoring, coaching, etc can help make these role transitions successful.

. As the climb up the organisational management structure progresses, there is an increasing sense of loneliness. In many situations there is often no one within the organisation to turn to and discuss things, issues, staff etc. This is where an executive coach/mentor can be advantageous as he/she is outside the organisation and can be very useful in providing independent, objective assessment/advice as a basis for discussion and decision-making.

. With the increasing size and complexity of organisations and "busyness"of senior management, there is less time for mentoring. Yet the need for mentoring is at its greatest as young managers want and demand personal treatment that is customised to their individual needs (this includes hands-on feedback from a senior manager who takes a personal interest in their careers). Thus a corporate, systematic, packaged, generic approach is not acceptable.

 

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