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How are coaching and mentoring different from supervision?

Very progressive managers, who are also effective leaders, can be somewhat more successful in prompting professional growth in their employees, but leadership requires “followership.” Leadership implies an “attracting” or “pulling” influence, and followership suggests that employees are drawn toward something but have some degree of choice as to whether they follow the leader and whether they grow or not. Anyone who has tried to lead others knows just how true that is. Marilyn Ferguson states it so well: “The gate to change is locked on the inside.”

High Impact Mentoring and Coaching is designed to be very separate from supervision. This approach to mentoring and coaching frames the mentor/coach as a highly effective leader WORTH following. In other words, “High Impact” mentors and coaches are MODELS and MAGNETS of best practices, increased performance, and greater results. People are attracted to them.

Also, this concept includes explicitly understanding that the employee who works with a mentor or a coach must choose:

  • To defer to the greater experience of a mentor
  • To learn through others experiences and mistakes and avoid learning by trial and error
  • To take the risks of discussing their own weaknesses and needs and of learning in front of someone more senior

Choosing to act that way takes a very special circumstance and relationship, and that is why mentoring and coaching must NOT overlap evaluation and supervision. Certainly, supervisors MUST be trained and expected to also act as mentors and coaches. Those skills will improve their ability as supervisors and the results of their supervision. However, non-supervisory relationships between mentors/coaches and the employees who are their protégés are needed also if we expect to dramatically accelerate learning and performance within our organizations.

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