In today’s tough economy, training budgets have been cut and formal training programs are probably reduced. One way to maximize the budget, train and mentor people on the job, and to create leadership is through the implementation of a coaching or mentor program. The first step in the creation and implementation of a coaching program is to determine your goals. But before taking that step, it’s a good idea to understand the subtle differences between coaching and mentoring.
A mentoring relationship focuses on the person being mentored, as well as his or her career and goals. The mentor may give advice on how to approach certain situations, but that advice is generally in favor of the person being mentored, sometimes referred to as a proteges. Coaching, on the other hand, focuses on a specific result or goal, such as job performance. The coach may also give advice on how to reach that goal, but the ultimate result is the goal itself. In this sense, coaching is rather impartial, that is, not biased toward an individual. Either coaching or mentoring can be formal or informal, so the decision on which program you want to use is based on the organization and its culture.
Regardless of which program you choose, you must set forth the goals of the program before trying to implement it. First, as we have discussed, you should decide if the program is to be formal or informal. In a formal program, you will probably have measurements, evaluations, scheduled meetings, and possibly even payment for a mentor or coach’s service to the program. The selection of mentors and coaches may also be a formal process, using pre-determined criteria. An informal program can usually occur through showing people how to coach or mentor and then letting the process unfold organically.
Next, it’s necessary to look at the goal of the program. During this time, you may find that the differences between coaching and mentoring come into play. For example, if your goals turn out to measurable or based on jobs, then you’ve pretty much determined by elimination that the program will be coaching. In relation to goals, think about what the organization wants to accomplish. Is the program meant to take the place of formal training, that is, to train people for performance on the job? Does the organization need to increase productivity? Or perhaps one particular area of the organization needs to be lifted to a new level, such as sales or marketing. Do you want to create a leadership pool or “bench” without going through a formal training program? Think about all of the things you could accomplish through a coaching program and begin to list your goals. Once you do this, you’ll be better able to proceed and implement the program.
The final step in planning and creating goals is to look at a time line. For less formal, organic programs, you may just want to see what happens without creating a formal time line. But before you make that determination, think about the organization and where it is today. Is the idea of a coaching or mentoring program temporary, that is, to get the organization through a bad cycle or a downturn? For that matter, is the program going into place to help out in a period of rapid growth or expansion? Perhaps you see the program as a permanent addition to the development of the organization, where coaches are selected, they “create” new coaches, and these new coaches continue the process down the line. Whatever time line you decide, it is necessary to have an idea before you move on to the design and implementation of a coaching or mentoring program.
Remember that like any development program, a coaching or mentoring program can be a constantly changing and ever-developing part of the organization. So it’s perfectly acceptable to make changes as you go along or when you stop to reassess the success of the program. Now that you’ve determined the type of program, its goals, and its time lines, you’re ready to move on to the overall design of the program itself.
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