American mythologist Joseph Campbell’s studies into human myths and legends led him to identify a common pattern in global narratives relating to mentorship. In his book ‘The Hero’s Journey’, he explained that there is always a mentor in every great story, regardless of the culture or time.
The mentor, through their experience and expertise, would offer something the hero needs. Whether it’s an object of significance, insight into a dilemma, wisdom, or self confidence, whatever was given to the hero served to dispel doubts and give strength to overcome their challenges.
While mentoring continues to increase in popularity, especially as our working population continue to age, the role of a coach is equally important. One of the key questions that circulates among business leaders is: Can someone embody the roles of mentor and coach simultaneously? While many in the business world believe this to be contradictory, they could not be further from the truth. The key is accountability.
The power of mentors and pragmatism of coaching
In the commercial world, the term mentor is typically associated with entrepreneurs – think angel investors. But mentoring can be applied successfully to a range of other business pursuits.
However, mentorship is not a silver bullet and it demands time and effort to get right. Mentorees must put the time into understanding what they want, where their limitations lie and how they can overcome them. Yet, this can become lost in translation due to the romanticism that comes with mentoring.
On the other hand, coaching involves a more pragmatic approach than that of mentoring. It focuses on performance and the successful fulfilment of goals that people want to achieve in their business world.
Speaking to Inc, former marine and current business coach Chad Cooper used sports as a metaphor to outline how a coach should operate.
‘A great coach looks at the overall game of your life and helps you make decisions and take action,’ he said. ‘Your coach sees things you don’t because you’re on the field and playing in the game. The coach is not in your game, but rather on the sidelines pointing out your strengths and strategies you’ve used to win.’
The more a business leader is on the field making things happen, the less time they have to evaluate the effectiveness of their actions.
As the saying goes, a coach has some great questions to your answers, while a mentor has some great answers for your questions.
Finding a blended approach
For commercial leaders and executives, a balance is required between the task-based approach of a coach and the holistic perspective of a mentor. The piece that always gets left out is accountability.
Internal and external mentoring and coaching processes should be built around this idea.
Here at The Executive Connection, both confidential group meetings and one-to-one meetings offer participants engagement with the best of both these worlds. You gain valuable insights on the challenges you face from your peers, as well as closer engagement with an experienced mentor, who will help you find the answers for yourself.
Essential to both is the idea that TEC members will not only receive pragmatic and theoretical advice, but also come back to their peers and mentors with the results. The entire system has task-related processes as well as holistic approaches to a CEOs life.
Participants hold each other accountable for the actions they take and the results they achieve. Failures as well as successes loop back into the meetings and group sessions, creating new forms of feedback aimed at generating new questions and solutions
While many people get caught up in the mentor vs coach debate, a balanced approach that blends the two tends to deliver the best results. With accountability at heart, the one-to-one and group-based processes can ensure people get the best of both worlds.
By: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Richard Appleby