Tag Archives: coach

Should You Use a Coach/Mentor?

It’s time to share the results of our coaches and mentors poll.

You may remember that, back in August, we launched a short survey. Thanks to those who participated. We now have stable enough results to give an interesting, at least initial, picture. As someone who works as an external coach and mentor, I was surprised  by some of these results. See if they accord with your experience.

See also: How to Choose a Great Coach  

Having given advice on understanding the difference between coaches and mentors, together with when you might need each, I was keen to see take-up. So, questions in this poll centered on three topics: use of coaches; use of mentors; personal development progress.

Here is what you shared…

Use of coaches

In answer to the question, “Do you have a coach?“:

  • 57% No
  • 43% Yes

The following questions were only completed by the 43%, who answered “yes” to having a coach.

In answer to the question, “What type of coach are they?“:

  • 33% Executive Coach
  • 33% Leadership Coach
  • 33% Professional Coach

Given the preponderance of “life coaches” and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) coaches I have met at coaching events, it’s interesting to see those did not make the list. The focus on the most senior leadership roles still appears to hold true. But it was interesting to see professional coach selected as a title as well.

In answer to the question, “Are they external to your employer?“:

  • 100% Yes

This was the first result to not have an element of surprise. It accords with my experience that most leaders (who do hire) only hire coaches externally, or view any such internal work as “mentoring.”

In answer to the question, “Do you believe you need a coach, to develop your leadership or to sustain high performance?“:

  • 60% Don’t know
  • 20% Yes
  • 20% No

This is perhaps the most concerning answer so far. There has been quite some debate within the coaching community about the need to improve methods of measuring effectiveness, to be able to demonstrate genuine progress or ROI for clients. This answer underlies the importance of that quest. If coaching clients themselves aren’t convinced they need a coach, there is probably more work to do on demonstrating what coaching delivers for them. We all need to see robust, understood metrics become commonplace.

Use of mentors

The next three questions in our survey focused on the use of mentors, with similar structure (to allow comparison with feedback on coaches).

In answer to the question, “Do you have a mentor?“:

  • 67% Yes
  • 33% No

Those results bear out my own experience, of selling coaching or mentoring services into U.K. and European businesses. Many companies appear to value technical or professional mentoring, while remaining skeptical about coaching. Despite that, my experience in mentoring engagements almost always involved elements of coaching, and it may become apparent that is the client’s primary need. But, as mentors are more widely taken-up, let’s see how mentors are being used.

The following questions were only completed by the 67%, who answered “yes” to having a mentor.

In answer to the question, “Do they also work for your employer?“:

  • 60% No
  • 40% Yes

Given the common situation of mentoring being provided by senior leaders within a business, this answer also surprised me. It seems, perhaps in line with the experience I shared above, that the take-up of external mentors has increased. It may just be the language used, or perhaps reflects the time-poor nature of many business leaders. Are companies struggling to free their own senior leaders for mentoring and opting to buy-in mentoring expertise instead? Either way, the answer confirms the greater popularity of mentoring rather than coaching services.

In answer to the question, “Do you believe you need a mentor, to develop in your career or succeed within your current organization?“:

  • 40% Yes
  • 40% No
  • 20% Don’t know

A more positive answer than the equivalent one for coaching, but still the majority answering “don’t know” or “no.” Perhaps the most interesting comparison is the lower number of undecided. It seems experiencing mentoring either clarifies that it is optional or identifies a clear need for this support. Once more, mentoring seems to be better understood than coaching.

Personal Development

Our final three questions focused on respondents’ progress in their personal development and time commitment to any form of such investment.

In answer to the question, “Do you have clear goals for your leadership development this year?“:

  • 50% No
  • 50% Yes

A concerning lack of clarity among responders to this question. If leaders really only have a 50:50 chance of having clear goals to develop their leadership capability, a need for goal-oriented coaching or mentoring is clear. It’s perhaps not surprising from increasingly time-poor leaders, working in business that too often focus on short-term targets. However, it is still concerning and perhaps something for prospective coaches or mentors to emphasize more – the benefits of such goal setting and how they can help clients use them.

In answer to the question, “Are you on track to achieve your goals?“:

  • 60% Yes
  • 40% No

Given the lack of clear goals identified in the previous answer, this positive view of progress risks looking overly optimistic. But, with hindsight, perhaps the wording here encouraged leaders to think about their wider goals. Another interpretation is that without clear goals it is easier to persuade yourself that you are doing fine. Certainly, believing you are on track, while potentially lacking clear goals or any accountability mechanism, could be a recipe for complacency. Does that also drive a lower uptake of coaches?

In answer to our final question, “How much time (per week) do you give to your personal development?“:

  • 67% 1-2 hours
  • 17% 3-4 hours
  • 17% >1 day

In the full version of this question, participants were asked to consider all development activities (coaching, mentoring, reading, training, events, etc). In that context, spending one to two hours a week (<5% of a 40-hour working week) seems far too little. Perhaps that is another sign that “short-termism” can rob leaders of investing what they need to grow and develop in their leadership. I’ve found that if you are not protecting sufficient time to develop your leadership skills, you not only fail to grow but also burn out quicker.

What are you going to do about it?

I hope those results were interesting. Feel free to share whether the scores aligned to your experience.

If you have been challenged by this post, to reconsider investing more time in your personal development and perhaps seeking a coach or mentor, then stop right now. If that thought is going to become more than just wishful thinking, the best thing you can do is commit to an action you are going to take as a result.

See also: Best Insurance? A Leadership Pipeline  

What will you do differently, within the next two weeks? Write it down, preferably with an app that will remind you.

I wish you well with your development as a leader. Today’s customer insight teams need the best leaders possible.

How to Choose a Great Coach

The Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) published a report titled “Coaching for Success: The key ingredients for coaching delivery and coach recruitment.” There’s plenty of interesting snippets of research findings and practical advice.

If you have time, it is well worth a read, but the points that caught my eye were a three-stage process for coach selection. I agree with the ILM that the selection of coaches often still lacks a robust structured process and so am going to share their recommended process as a good example.

This process can be used by individuals for themselves or by someone selecting on behalf of an organization. It assumes that a long list of possible coaches has already been found. To achieve that, you could go as Wild West as a general Google search on “coach”/”leadership coach”/”executive coach.” However, I’d recommend starting with a pre-qualified list like the Association for Coaching (AfC) directory of coaches or equivalents from other coaching bodies.

Here are the stages that the ILM recommends, to be used like a checklist of questions to ask (I’ve added what I’d say if asked):

Stage 1: Long-list to Short-list

  • What experience of coaching does the coach have? (I could evidence my number of coaching hours and cite previous mentoring experience within a large corporation)
  • Can the coach demonstrate an understanding of the leadership challenges in your industry? (I’ve found some clients value my experience in customer insight leadership or within the insurance industry)
  • What training do they have? (I could evidence my ILM Level 7 qualification in Executive Coaching and Mentoring)
  • What ethical standards do they work to? (I share with clients a copy of the AfC code of ethics and explain that I abide by that)
  • What supervision does the coach have in place? (I use AfC/University of South Wales co-coaching forums)

Stage 2: Getting down to the last few

  • What coaching methodologies does the coach use, when and why? (my primary tools are active listening, Socratic questioning, goal-oriented models and, where relevant, positive psychology tools like Strength Finders)
  • What price do they charge? (average fees can vary around the country, but between £100-250 per hour is typical; I normally charge £150 per hour)

Stage 3: Final selection

  • What does the coach he can achieve for the individual coachee/client? (this is where a free introductory meeting can help me clarify where I may be able to help or if another intervention other than coaching might help more)
  • What do they believe they can achieve for the organization? (it’s always worth doing your homework on an organization and discussing context with a client, before you can offer a view on this)
  • Will the coach and the coachee/client get on? (at the end of the day, a lot comes down to personal chemistry, so I will meet up for a chat over a coffee and let us both assess if we feel it can work)

I hope you find that helpful, especially if you are facing this challenge. The ILM also suggests that competency frameworks from leading global coaching bodies can help, but I like the clear simplicity of the above list.

Has anyone found another approach to selecting a coach worked for them? Please share your experience.