Executive Coaching-Mentoring: Benefits and Pitfalls

What can an executive coach or mentor do for me?

Well, like an elite athlete, they can take your career to its next step and beyond.

Whoever said ‘good guys come last’ had an intimate knowledge of contemporary organisations.

Rarely do executives achieve higher responsibilities without being sponsored and mentored by someone. Thus, it is invariably the difference between success and failure. For start-up companies, it is even more critical to have a mentor with a proven track record in your product area to call upon for wise counsel.

However the pitfalls are many!

Talk with anyone who has implemented an executive coaching program and they’ll have at least one bad story to tell about being matched with the wrong mentor or coach. On the flip-side, the benefits include positive behaviour change, enhanced competencies and practical knowledge based on hard won experience – all of which are necessary for your entry into the inner sanctum.

Most leaders like effective executive mentors-coaches because they:

  • understand the corporate environment in which you work;
  • know how to apply management development theory and practice;
  • have experience in using and debriefing ‘assessment’ instruments;
  • have a verifiable track record in coaching-mentoring executives;
  • not only support, but vigorously respect confidentiality; and
  • can command respect, whilst at the same time giving you some unwelcome, but necessary wise counsel.

The return on time and money invested in executive coaching-mentoring is often very high; especially in fast-tracking your accumulation of knowledge and experience, and most certainly for enhanced decision-making.

How many times have you run an idea past a close confidant before submitting your idea to management?

Coaching-Mentoring is not a substitute for real experience, but it can get you on the right experience train. It is up to you to decide when you want to get off!

Here are some of the pitfalls:

  • failure to integrate executive mentoring-coaching with the rest of your leadership development strategy;
  • not getting full commitment to the ‘program’ mapped out for you;
  • not being clear on the type of coaching style that will best suit you (and why);
  • you didn’t check your coach’s track record and his/her competencies and skills.

Best to be wary of coaches who:

  • have no executive, corporate, business venture or industry experience (they often offer solely a counselling and/or psychology solution);
  • insist on using their own off the shelf coaching and assessment programs (there is no panacea that fits all people); and
  • boast of ‘fixing’ people’s careers!

Coaching-mentoring takes many forms. Which of the following best suits your needs?

  • Life Coach
  • Wise Counsellor
  • Executive Coach
  • Mentor-in-Confidence
  • Skills Coach
  • Career Recovery Mentor
  • Business Venture Coach

The best coach-mentor exhibits a combination of empathy and toughness and is practical and interested in helping you do better, whilst also being sure of whom they are as people!

How will this approach sit with you and, how difficult is it to find such a person?