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Is Coaching or Mentorship Right for Your Organization?

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Coaching and mentorship programs are critical for professional growth and organizational development, research continues to show.

Coaches and mentors are uniquely positioned to help employees, managers and executive leaders increase their effectiveness and impact.

While coaching and mentoring both provide value, they are not synonymous, however. So what’s the difference, and which is right for your organization?

A coach is someone who has expertise in asking powerful and revealing questions to help their clients gain new insights and understanding about their situation, the challenges they face, and how to address those challenges.

Coaches walk alongside their clients to serve as a sounding board and to facilitate their client’s own process of self-discovery and self-improvement. A coach helps an employee grow and develop at a faster and more efficient rate than if they were left to their own devices or self-direction.

The role of the coach is not necessarily to provide answers but rather to help their clients come to their own insights and conclusions. Coaches do not dispense advice and do not see themselves as wise sages helping solve all their clients problems. Rather, they empower and develop their coachees to tackle problems with better tools and greater self-awareness. 

Coaches do not see themselves as experts in the roles that their clients play at work in their organizations. Coaches keep their clients in the expert’s seat and help them problem solve. Coaches are instead experts in guiding their coaching clients to greater insights, in sharing relevant leadership development knowledge, in mapping out a growth strategy, and in holding clients accountable to their development goals.

Mentors, on the other hand, typically are those with more experience in the same or similar roles as the employee.

A mentor has walked in their shoes to some extent and gone before the employee. A mentor usually has direct experience with the organization or a mentee’s line of work. 

Mentors can help their mentees by sharing from their life experience and talking about their own challenges, the problems they’ve overcome, and the ways they’ve addressed them.

Mentors can also serve as powerful role models for the employee, to give the employee an example of how they might develop and improve themselves. Mentors may not be expert problem solvers, however, and may not be trained in asking coaching questions that raise the employee’s self-awareness or in developing employee growth plans. 

They may be better at simply giving advice and sharing from their own experience and life lessons. 

This is why mentors are not the same as coaches and why both are crucial types of support and often function together very well. An employee who has a coach and a mentor is well on their way to higher levels of growth, development, impact, and success. 

In fact, organizations with formal mentoring programs have 46% higher leader quality overall, 20% lower turnover, and can fill 23% more critical roles immediately, according to a 2018 Leadership Forecast study by DDI.

It is important for highly motivated employees to seek out coaches and mentors to improve themselves. But individual employees should not be left to their own devices to find this kind of support. This “do it yourself” approach to leadership pales in comparison to what organizations can leverage when pairing leaders with mentors and coaches.

It’s imperative for organizations to invest in coaching and mentorship programs to develop their workforce. Healthy and impactful organizations that want their employees to succeed in order to better serve their customers will ensure that they invest in their people through these types of channels. 

Keys to Successful Coaching and Mentorship Programs

Organizations intent on empowering and investing in employee success do well to consider creating coaching and mentoring programs. Organizations may hire and bring in external coaches to support high potential employees and teams, or develop their own internal coaching pipelines to train managers and other leaders in coaching skills.

Mentorship is best designated within the organization by identifying seasoned and more experienced employees who can take emerging leaders under their wings to share their wisdom and discuss their successes and failures. Mentorship pipelines can be created within an organization by matching willing senior leaders and managers with newer and developing leaders in similar roles and divisions. 

Mentorship programs should include clearly defined roles, including:

  • Proteges (i.e., diverse individuals who have been identified for mentoring and development).
  • Mentors (i.e., leaders who – based on their experience, expertise or skills – have been identified as the people who will guide the Protégé).
  • Sponsors, (i.e., senior executives with access and influence to the “top of the house” who can support the Protégé’s career development path.”

Further, insights on the psychometric profiles of those being coached and mentored can provide crucial insight into their drivers, motivations, work styles, and other attitudes and behaviors central for success. 

Coaches and mentors who have access to this psychometric information in the flow of work through tools such as SurePeople’s Relationship Advisor and Team Advisor – can have candid, thoughtful, and informed conversations with high potentials about the ideal and most effective path for growth and development.

Pairing coaches and mentors with access to SurePeople’s platform provides a powerful set of tools to bring data-driven, predictive insights to the process.

These unbiased insights can also help organizations identify high potentials who would best benefit from coaching and mentoring and also pair leaders with the right coaches and mentors based on this information.

By leveraging people analytics and tools in the flow of work, coaching and mentoring programs will be better defined and organized and have a clearer set of goals and tactics to ensure rapid, sustained improvement within the organization. 


To learn how coaching and strategic mentorship programs can help your organization develop, engage and retain more diverse, higher-quality leaders at all organizational levels, please reach out.

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