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Mentoring and Coaching


The origin of the word Mentor is from Greek mythology, where Mentor was the trusted friend of Ulysses who entrusted his son, Telemachus when Ulysses joined the other Greek kings in the Trojan War. The French play by Francois Fenelon portrays Mentor in the lead role who guides and helps Telemachus. Thus in modern English usage the term mentor is given to a trusted friend or adviser who helps the protégé to advance in her career (or sometimes life). Mentoring is a highly effective technique employed by organizations at different levels.

Mentoring as in succession planning

Succession planning is a very important part in any organization to ensure business continuity. Warren Buffet is known to assure his shareholders that the business of Berkshire Hathaway would continue as usual if he were to die that night. In many organizations, succession planning is done to the level of middle level management. The most effective tool for succession planning is ‘Mentoring’. The manager identifies her protégé and mentors her, thus acting as a friend and adviser she is able to guide the protégé in every step of her career. Sometimes a mentor can even be a fellow entrepreneur or a competitor, as was in the case of Sir Frederick Laker acting as mentor for Sir Richard Branson.

Mentoring for New Hires

In organizations, it is an established practice to appoint a mentor to a new hire. The practice, followed in Cisco Systems is acclaimed to be widely successful. The mentor helps in making the new hire feel at home and learning the organization’s culture. Often such mentor-mentee relationships go a long way, with both participants ending up as friends.


The concept of coaching though often confused and interchangeably with mentoring is completely different. Coaching is a more formal way, where a coach identifies the goals of the client and helps the client in achieving the goal. The role of a coach is not to solve the problems, or to offer expert advice. The coach normally stays ‘out of the game’ and helps the coached solve their own problems. The coach observes the client’s strengths and weaknesses and helps the client to see and understand them. Coaching is often done with the intention of honing the skills of an individual or a team.

Coaching can be imparted to a team by one coach, while mentoring is normally done on a one-to-one basis. It is common for a mentor to involve at a personal level with his protégée; a coach usually stays away from personal aspects and focuses on the skill development of the individual or the team. A typical example of coaching is as practiced for coaching a cricket team or a player, where a coach runs a cricket coaching camp. Coaching students for a taking up a specific examination is another example.

In organizations, campus freshmen often have the need for both coaching and mentoring. Coaching should be done for skill building or honing of existing skills, thus by definition, coaching is a time bound formal program. Mentoring on the other hand is a longer time relationship, not time bound and goes further than mere skill development. It is not uncommon for the mentor and the protégé to form a fulfilling relationship. The key is to understand the difference between the two and apply the right methods in the correct context.

Comments Listing
Posted: 13/04/2011 00:09:09

simple and precise

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