How to approach mentoring and coaching in a small business

Mentoring and coaching are two of the most common contemporary business buzz words. When you Google these terms, hundreds of search results come up; each professing the value and benefits of mentoring and coaching efforts in terms of producing results for organizations. Some proponents recommend highly formalized programs while others suggest informal approaches. Regardless of the methodology you embrace, the fundamental premise of mentoring and coaching efforts is based on the notion that employee development and performance will be enhanced by concerted efforts in these areas.

For the purposes of this blog post, we will use the following definition of each of these terms:

Mentoring is a relationship-based process predicated on trust, whereby one party endeavors to act as an advisor/guide to another person. Mentoring typically is long-term and development-focused.

Coaching is a task-oriented process, whereby one party provides targeted direction to another party related to specific skill-based performance areas.  Coaching is typically short-term and performance-focused.

While there is a place for both mentoring and coaching efforts in small businesses, there are two very important factors to keep in mind when contemplating implementing such efforts in your organization.

1. Who should play the role of a mentor and/or a coach?

A mentor is normally not the individual’s direct manager. It is most effective to have the mentor role be held by someone other than the employee’s direct manager. In a small business, it may be a wise alternative to consider a mentor from outside your organization. A coach is typically the person’s immediate manager. This is an effective choice because the direct manager has first-hand knowledge regarding the employee’s performance-related improvement opportunities.

2. What are you trying to accomplish?

If you are trying to develop future leaders for your organization, then mentoring is the ideal route. However, if you are attempting to develop specific competencies, and/or help employees improve subpar performance, then coaching is the recommended approach.

Mentoring and coaching are useful tools for small businesses that when planned and implemented properly can have a constructive impact on your organization.

What has been your experience with mentoring and coaching programs in your business? Share in the comments.

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