Are you lonesome tonight?

In a recent article I touched on the use of professionals to help you define your Inner Elvis. These professionals can also be used as a part of a wider people-strategy for your staff.

Imagine this situation – you have an employee who shows great potential and is someone you think could go far. With a little help! But what sort of help does she need? You have heard the wonders of career coaches and the benefits of mentors. What about executive champions? So which one is the best for your employee?

Before you even look at one of the three options, you will need to be clear on a couple of foundation issues:

  1. Does she think she needs help? Will she be open to being helped?
  2. What sort of help and in what areas of her professional development do you think she needs? Does she agree with you?
  3. What is the culture of your company regarding mentors/coaches/champions? Will she be under more pressure if she accepts this type of help?
  4. Is this a part of (and do you want this to be a part of) a wider company initiative to help potential achievers? If so, then you will need to develop criteria that are as objective as possible for assessing these potential achievers.

See – so much to think about even before you try to help!

So back to the original question – let’s assume that you have the foundation issues properly locked down. Here’s the bird’s eye view on helping your employees:

Career coaches are professionals who are qualified often in psychology and adult learning as well leadership, management and business theories. Coaches are often members of a professional association which adheres to a code of ethics, and have ongoing professional development. For more information, try the Australasian International Coach Federation. Coaches will help people figure out what their career goals are and work with them to achieve their goals. The process often leans towards facilitation rather than direction and should be personal to the individual being coached.

Using mentors, on the other hand are more like getting advice from an elder statesman. Anyone can be a mentor, so long as they have the experience and the knowledge to back up their advice. Often, mentors are people that the mentees aspire to be. Mentoring should be subtle, and is often reactive to particular events or situations. The mentor’s value is their experience in dealing with these events or situations, guiding the mentee and helping them avoid the common mistakes. Mentoring programs are common in many corporations to share corporate experience and to help junior executives with the common pitfalls within the organisation/industry.

An executive champion is a mix between the two. Executive champions work with individuals identified as leaders in the organisation to help them discover and achieve their full potential. An executive champion will work collaboratively with the employee both as a facilitator to define and refine their skills and as a sounding-board to help with decision making. The executive champion can be more hands-on than a mentor, but the aim is always for the employee to learn and to grow from the knowledge gained in decision making process or the way in which a situation is handled.

But the most important consideration is trust. Whether the situation requires the use of a coach, a mentor or an executive champion, she must build a cohesive rapport with and believe in the person assisting her. She must trust that person’s knowledge and experience and be able to obtain tangible value from the experience. The real measure of success is in her head, which has to be assessed at the end of each session. Otherwise, to continue is a waste of everyone’s time and your money.

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