Who Ya Gonna Call: Manager, Mentor, or Coach?

Maybe you are ready to do something different, but you just aren’t sure what that “something” is. Perhaps you’re looking for a change, a different perspective, or have important goals to reach. What’s the best source to get the answers you desire? If you don’t find someone to help, chances are that your quest for different will end up more of the same. day after day, and year after year.

Let’s explore three options you may have available to you, and the differences between their approaches to getting you to different.

Manager (you know, the one you report to!)

manager, mentor, or coach?Most organizations have managers, who are there almost every day, ready to manage. But can they support your quest for that “something different,” or does different scare the heck out of them, because they don’t want anyone to rock the boat, or get out of the box? They most likely are motivated by company goals, and like everyone else, just working hard to keep up with the pace and reach those goals!

Mentor (the one someone else assigned to you)

Mentors may even (understandably) be too tapped out after helping themselves.

Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a mentor who has said, “Hey, call me if you need anything!” And chances are, you’ve taken them up on their offer and called them. But perhaps you’ve also found that they are so busy doing their own thing, they don’t really have time to help you. They may even (understandably) be too tapped out after helping themselves.

Coach (the one who gets you “unstuck”)

That leaves a third option, and often, the best solution. A coach is someone with the experience and focus to help you find that “something different.” Not only that, but they have the time for you (gasp!), because they have it blocked on their schedule! Ah, the joy of having someone who will listen and give you valuable input at a weekly scheduled time!

Many of my clients feel “stuck”; often there isn’t anyone at their level with whom they can have confidential conversations and nonthreatening dialogue.

Coaching differs from management or mentorship, and while there are certainly some helpful managers and mentors among us, a coach focuses on helping individuals go from where they are to where they want themselves—and their business—to be.

Many of my clients feel “stuck” and can’t think of what else to do to move the organization forward before they come to me. Often there isn’t anyone at their level with whom they can have confidential conversations and nonthreatening dialogue.

Whatever the reason, distinct from other forms of training, coaching focuses on a specific way of “learning” for the individual. It’s commonly cited that the more an individual is involved in identifying problems, in working out and applying solutions for them and in reviewing results, the more complete and the more long-lasting the learning is. This form of self-improvement tends to bring about learning with a deeper understanding than learning that is taught.

Given the right circumstances, one-on-one interaction with an objective third party—one not tied to the organization or other executive or company influences—can provide a focus that other forms of organizational support cannot. Coaching develops the leader in “real time” within the context of their current job, while allowing them to maintain their day-to-day responsibilities.

In today’s demanding business environment (cost pressures leading to flatter organizations; executive managers with more direct reports; “speed to market” as a competitive advantage with time pressure, etc.), executives have limited opportunity to devote time and energy to their own development as leaders. In fact, most executives struggle to fulfill the responsibilities of their positions and are too busy and too stressed to step back and learn from their experiences.

The reasons for choosing coaching go beyond the need to correct or resolve problem behaviors or performance issues. Coaches help develop executive-level skills and strategies, which directly impact business growth.

So, now you have a decision to make the next time you are looking for that something different…Who ya gonna call?