Mentoring and Coaching — Defining Their Roles and Importance

(Jane Yang, Learning & Organizational Development Manager at Mobiquity)

In today’s professional environment, there is no clear path or ladder to success. There used to be more structured pathways for professionals to climb from one job to another, though now, with the speed of technology as one contributing factor, the menu of choices is almost overwhelming.

This being the case, having more mentoring and coaching in the workplace is that much more compelling. While professionals can boost their technical competence by themselves, people-centered skillsets generally grow with mentoring and coaching, as you need a sounding board for the exchange of ideas, and room for vulnerability. Essential soft skills and emotional intelligence will be actionable no matter which professional direction you choose.

Mentoring and coaching are instrumental parts of the learning and development strategy of many organizations these days, and have been proven to be effective in terms of engaging, developing, and retaining talent. They are both integral tools in helping talent navigate their work and development within an organization.

How mentoring and coaching are different

Although both mentoring and coaching are impactful in developing employees, there tends to be some confusion about how each methodology is defined and used. They are often used interchangeably, but actually there are fundamental differences, most easily summed up as follows:

“A coach has some great questions for your answers; a mentor has some great answers for your questions.”

A mentor is often a more senior person in the organization who advises and counsels someone junior to them in the organization. They draw on their own knowledge and experience to offer solutions and advice to the mentee. A mentor can also serve as a sponsor and broaden the mentee’s network and even open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities. More often than not, mentorship is a longer term relationship with the potential to extend beyond a formal mentoring period.

A coach, on the other hand, operates from a specific, time-bound focus, depending on the need and the context of the coachee. Coaches may be asked to step in and help employees improve their leadership capabilities, and set and reach career goals. As well, coaches may help their coachees achieve better work/life balance, improve communication skills, improve teamwork, and develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

Tips to help you become a great mentor or coach

Although mentors and coaches may approach development slightly differently, there are some core competencies they both should have and continually develop to be truly effective in helping the mentee or coachee:

  • Empathy & compassion
  • High level of self-awareness and openness to self-reflect
  • Good communication skills
  • Curiosity

Besides these core competencies, ensuring that you give proper thought to the following will also help set you and your mentee or coachee up for success:

  • Discuss your roles, expectations, and ways of working, from both sides, and ensure that there is a match in what you believe you can offer and what the mentee/coachee is looking for
  • Set some clear goals and reasonable expectations/timelines
  • Agree on a meeting cadence and meeting/communication medium
  • Agree on how you should help keep the mentee/coachee accountable

These are just a few tips on how to get a mentoring/coaching relationship off to a good start, but if you are seriously considering becoming a mentor or an internal coach, following a training is highly recommended. A passion to help someone grow and develop is noble and essential to be a good mentor or coach, but to be truly effective in the role, a good basic foundation and understanding of the role and practice with the skills and techniques can make a real difference.

Being a great mentee or coachee

Mentors and coaches dedicate their time and energy to getting the best out of their mentees or coachees. Often they open up and become vulnerable as part of the process. Mentees and coachees should be willing to put in the same dedication and willingness to open up.

Mentees and coachees are partners in this sort of relationship, not just receivers of skills and knowledge. To foster successful mentor/mentee and coach/coachee relationships, the following practices can be adopted:

  • Retire the “I know it all” attitude and be curious to learn from your mentor or coach
  • Practice active listening and take feedback seriously
  • Dedicate time to do any homework you might receive, as the mentor or coach shouldn’t be the ones to chase you for follow-up
  • Let yourself be vulnerable and don’t break the trust of your mentor or coach

There are many clear benefits to being a great mentee or coachee. You will become more confident and feel like you are contributing to your organization, and you will likely be more inspired to stay on and grow with the company.

As well, you will have someone in your work life with whom you can be vulnerable. This will give you more trust in the organization, and make you feel like a trusted person, rather than a resource.

Whether you are a driver of engagement or being driven to engage, being part of a mentor/mentee or coach/coachee relationship is a positive step toward personal and professional growth. Organizations should continue to invest in both as prioritizing people is the best way to keep up the rapid change we see today.

Mentoring and coaching at Mobiquity

Being a professional services organization, Mobiquity recognizes that people are the foundation of our business, and therefore we need to enable our employees to continuously learn and grow both professionally and personally. More specifically, we understand the importance of having someone available to give you guidance and to help you to navigate the organization and your career. While your team lead is your main source of guidance, we also have assigned mentors in a number of disciplines: Front-end/Back-end development, Design, Analytics, and Recruitment, to name a few. These mentors play a key role in helping the more junior employees get better at their craft.

Besides mentoring for our internal employees, we also have a number of mentors who are supervising Masters or PhD graduate students. For our new employees, we also often pair them up with a mentor buddy for the first few months to help them find their way in the organization.

Through the mentoring experience, our mentors not only have a direct impact on the growth of a less experienced colleague but they also have the opportunity to grow and develop their own leadership skills. So mentoring is actually a win-win situation for everyone.

Besides mentoring, we also offer coaching to our employees for example to help new leaders transition smoothly into their leadership roles or to help teams work more effectively together. In some situations there is a need to have someone external to the organization to facilitate, so we also have a network of external coaches ready to step in when necessary.

Mentoring and coaching has proven to be very successful in our workplace and will continue to be a cornerstone of our learning and development strategy. Why not consider making it a part of yours?

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If you are looking for a job opportunity in the IT industry, come to join us at Mobiquity:)