Developing Future Leaders with Mentoring and Coaching

Leaders exist in every generation—Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. Each generation brings something different, but important, to the workplace. And each generation needs leadership development.

If you’re a Baby Boomer, think back to when you started your career. Were mentoring and coaching part of your leadership development? If they were, there was likely no formal process, unless you were at the highest leadership levels of the organization. Most mid-level leaders during that time had to identify their own mentors and coaches. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, members of Generation X probably remember a more defined process for matching them with a mentor or coach. And Millennials (also called Generation Y) most likely experience even more focused mentoring and coaching programs.

What has driven the increased focus on formal mentoring and coaching programs? Organizational leaders have recognized their value in ensuring a robust leadership development program and their vital role in developing leaders in an increasingly complex global world. Developing future generations to succeed us must be intentional to ensure organizational sustainability.

Because coaching and mentoring are powerful components of developing sustainable leaders, both must be incorporated into the fabric of our organizations. According to John Duggan, CEO of Gazely, “We believe it’s in business’ interest to become more sustainable…. This will become a must-have, rather than a nice-to-have issue, going forward. We want to build our brand around that position.”

My own experience

While working with clients, including Butler University, I’ve seen leaders “walk the talk.” MBA students are assigned a coach early in their program. As one of the leadership coaches, I assist students with completing the 360-degree feedback process, which provides them with feedback on how their leadership style is perceived by their boss, direct reports, and peers.

Then, I help them design an action plan to increase their leadership effectiveness. The goal is to ensure their effectiveness is sustained long after the MBA program is complete. I’m intrigued by this program because I am passionate about helping leaders and organizations increase sustainability. I’ve also had the honor of mentoring several young men and women over the years, and I take that honor very seriously.

Differences between mentoring and coaching

Through my experiences, I have learned that mentoring differs from coaching in that it’s generally for a longer period of time and focuses on developing the individual holistically for the future—professionally, personally, and often, spiritually. Coaching, on the other hand, may only be for a short period of time and focuses on helping the individual overcome a specific issue or performance challenge in the present.  I’ve been fortunate to experience the power of coaching and mentoring.

While there are clear differences between coaching and mentoring, the differences complement each other, making both valuable and necessary. Together they are a powerful, unbeatable combination for developing future leaders. Their differences are summarized in the table below.

  • Relationship generally has a set duration
  • Generally structured & meetings are scheduled
  • Focus typically for development issues at work
  • Revolves more around specific development issues
  • Ongoing relationship that can last a long time
  • Generally informal meetings as needed for advice
  • Focus typically on career & personal development
  • Revolves more around developing the mentee
Bottom line

It is evident that a balance of mentoring and coaching is important to overall leadership success.  It is my opinion that both approaches used together will significantly strengthen the development of our future leaders, our organizations, and our communities.