Mentoring and coaching: why bother with the touchy feely?

 Ever work in a group that had this attitude toward training?

  • “I can’t bother training someone new. I don’t have the time.”
  • “This isn’t my responsibility to help someone else learn their job.”
  • “My employees should be able to just learn their work on the job. That’s why I hired them.”

I’ve been asked too look at the possibility of implementing some type of implementation of a coaching/mentoring mini-program for a series of trainings. My first inclination and hunch told me that this type of program goes beyond just providing documentation and a package that can be passed on in an organization. It takes  the following:

  1. The organization has bought into the definition and cultural value of coaching and mentoring
  2. The organization much clearly identify the responsibilities of  both mentors and mentees to all parties, and these parties must understand and agree to these responsibilities.
  3. All particpants (mentors and especially mentees) must identify learning goals or job role mastery of tasks/procedures. Also, they must be held accountable for these goals order to track the success of the mentoring/coaching program.
  4. The organization takes ownership for holding identified mentors and mentees responsible for achieving their goals.

It was just a hunch because I was worried that speaking to the idea of mentoring was only paying lipservice to the idea, and actually accomplishing success with such a package.

After reviewing some resources on the topics of both coaching and mentoring, some of my initial hunches were verified.  A coaching program is more than just providing a buddy packet to a new hire and assigning him or her a buddy.  In order to be even moderately effective, any formal coaching, mentoring or buddy program must have the buy in and support of management and employees within a group.  This means that all or most members of the org must understand and believe in the benefits of coaching. Contrary to the sentiments expressed above, the following attitudes must somehow be engendered in both staff and and management:

  • “It’s our team responsibility to make sure new folks are brought up to speed.”
  • “Faster they get on the job the faster we get to move forward.”
  • “My employees are human, and humans need to learn from other humans.”

In most cases a coaching program is even more effective if management mandates participation.  To provide training to use buddy materials and just leave managers and employees to carry on, will not insure adoption of the program. Management has to send a clear message that when assigned a buddy both the coach and the buddy have expectations for integration success.

More, from understanding my own experience being a peer coach and work or being in a situation where I was being coached,  I learned that it’s important not only to have a personal connection with whomever is coaching you,  you need to have goals for learning skills set up. These goals can be part of your normal employee development plan.

In the world where I work, mentoring and coaching are often seen as ‘soft-skills’ training which is not essential to successful job competency.  I work in the world where “Concrete” is king. If you don’t have a list of measurable ROI for putting efforts into anything, then don’t bother.  I’ve been trying to find ways to creatively show and demonstrate that building these ‘soft’ relationships is key to achieving ‘productivity’ quickly.  However, I’ve come to the conclusion… that if the leader of the group doesn’t ‘buy it,’ then you’re in for an uphill battle all the way through.


The Mentor’s Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships. Lois J. Zachary (c) 2000. Jossey-Bass

Everyone Needs a Mentor: Fostering Talent in Your Organization.  David Clutterbuck (c) 2004. CIPD Enterprises.

Coaching Basics. Lisa Haneberg. (C) 2006. ASTD.

Improving Employee Performance Through Appraisal and Coaching, Second Edition. Donald L. Kirkpatrick AMACOM (c) 2005


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