IBM has more than sixty certified coaches among its ranks. Scores of other major companies have made coaching a core part of leadership development. The belief is that, under the right circumstances, one-on-one interaction with an objective third party can provide a focus that other forms of organizational support simply cannot.
Results of a study conducted by Manchester, Inc. of 100 leaders primarily from Fortune 100 companies found that among the benefits that organizations received from providing coaching to leaders were improvements in productivity (reported by 53% of leaders), quality (48%), and organizational strength (48%). Among the benefits to leaders who received coaching were improved working relationships with direct reports (reported by 77% of leaders), working relationships with immediate supervisors (71%), teamwork (67%).
The skill sets and experiences that each generation offers an organization can help to create a stronger work environment as long as each generation is able to understand and appreciate the other. Reverse mentoring is another tool that many organizations use today to develop talent and skill between generations. Managing generational diversity in the workplace by using a reverse mentoring program is a solution that many companies are already using including GE, Hewlett Packard, and Cisco Systems. Reverse mentoring can be introduced to an organization as a stand-alone mentoring program, or it can be introduced as part of a mentoring program that is already in place. Reverse mentoring programs also report a high degree of organizational unity and retention as well. There is a large amount of knowledge transfer that can take place across generations such as the utilization of social media from Millennials and business best practices from Baby Boomers.
Additionally, we can expect Baby Boomers to retire at the rate of 6,000 per day for the next several years. A recent joint survey conducted by SHRM and AARP indicated that organizations not taking steps to prepare for the Baby Boomer exodus from the workforce may already be behind. Only 40% of the nearly 500 organizations surveyed have conducted strategic workforce succession planning assessments to determine their needs for the next 5 years. According to the SHRM/AARP survey, 76% of organizations see the Baby Boomer exodus as being a huge crisis for them. The best organizations (45%) have increased training and cross-training efforts to minimize the effects of lost experience and history.
So when we look at the new rules of mentoring, coaching or reverse mentoring we should consider the following:
1. Mentoring and coaching can inspire the mentee to perform “best thinking” and “best practice.” The coach can provide best practices in the workplace and not allow the individual to continue on a path that has already proven to be out-dated or faulty. Organizational practices are so often very insular and the coach can be a vital source of new external information.
2. Mentoring and coaching causes the individual to challenge assumptions and discern facts from opinion. As we move up what Chris Argyis calls the “ladder of inference,” we begin to treat assumptions as facts to the point where we will believe something is true that has very little basis in actual data. The coach helps to surface erroneous assumptions before decision making occurs by testing the conclusions being drawn and the beliefs formed.
3. Coaches and mentors provide a crucial voice of encouragement and support. We live in an ultra-critical world with extremely high expectations placed on our leaders. We forget that they are human, with self-doubts, anxieties, and internal voices that are very self-critical. The coach is invaluable for providing positive feedback, encouragement and a supportive ear during difficult times.
4. Coaches and mentors can teach and direct when experience and competency are lacking. In every coaching situation I’ve had, there have been strategies and tools that I have shared that benefit the individual’s understanding and competency. Self-discovery is only valuable if there is something inside to discover. In the case where competency is lacking, self-discovery can be a futile path. Having a coach who is knowledgeable in areas where the individual is not opens doors to new understanding and insights.
5. Coaches and mentors provide constructive insight and feedback about the “blind self” areas. For those familiar with Johari’s window, we all have what is called the “blind self” – behaviors that we don’t see in ourselves that others do see. The coach can open exploration of these behaviors through guided discussion, helping the obscure become transparent and reflecting to the individual how he or she might be perceived by others. These insights can form the basis of a strong personal development plan for the individual.
In order for coaching, mentoring or reverse-mentoring to work Lisa Quast of Forbes.com says the keys to a successful mentoring relationship are having defined expectations, having an agreed-upon set of rules, having a willingness to learn, and having trust and transparency.
We’ve helped to set up mentoring and cross-training programs for organizations for over 25 years now. In our opinion, with the emergence of a more diverse workforce of culture, generation and talent, mentoring and coaching is the top skill development tools for tomorrow’s organizations.