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August 4, 2008

Another weapon in the arsenal

Mentoring and coaching is something that consultants often engage in. Sometimes it is part of a formal and official engagement but most frequently it will be unofficial. A sort of underground coaching that you do for your colleagues, clients and acquaintances.

 Since beginning my mentoring program a few years ago I have mentored people in person and remotely across a lot of the globe now. What I have found is that whether this is formal or informal there is a right way to do it.

 Work out what assistance is needed. Like all problems people tend to focus on the symptoms rather than the causes. So drill into the causes of the problems during your first interviews and meetings. Sometimes this may not be necessary. For example, I have offered to coach colleagues at times because the problem is obvious.

Put a structure in place. Mentoring and coaching is not just a series of counseling meetings or a string of advisory comments. It is a plan that will get a person from A (As-Is) to B (To-Be). A plan needs to involve many elements that will get them on the path to discovery, and keep them embedding the issues that they have learned.

Write specific action items. One of my coaching sessions involves getting people to perform better under pressure, and how to become more productive. For this one I actually wrote a five piece email document that I sent to them on a structured basis every two weeks. As well as the information it contained there were also specific action items, review and improve exercises and specific hold points where definite action was required.

Instill discipline. Improving anything takes practice, patience and continual focus on making things better. I recently started training martial arts again after about twenty years of being idle. At first it was shocking, today I am not great – but I am a heck of a lot better than I was. Embed a process of practice, review and improve.

Candid feedback. A coach is not there to stroke your ego, in fact often direct feedback from a professional coach can be disarming and even hurtful. But if you are going to truly help somebody then lying to them about their performance is never the way to do it. If they can’t take it they don’t need a coach they need a pet.

Set out the end points, and realize when they can’t be reached. Some people and teams are too set in their ways to change. Recognize when you can change something and when you are only generating revenue. If it is the latter then your track record requires you to move onto the next improvement opportunity.

Coaching is an integral part of every Consultants armory, we need to be able to start and develop a mentoring program at any point in time for our clients, colleagues or official mentees.