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What is developmental mentoring ?

Whereas coaching is concerned with raising awareness in a client and bringing out their inner strengths, mentoring is about the transmission of knowledge and social skills to the client.

In a coaching relationship, the coach acts as a catalyst in a process of self-discovery for the coachee, asking thought-provoking questions but avoiding suggestions or proposals. While a coach needs to possess certain personality characteristics in order to be effective,  notably empathy and emotional intelligence, the coach’s intervention is based to a large extent on techniques mastered through appropriate study, training and practice.

In contrast, mentoring is a series of exchanges between a person with greater relevant knowledge and experience (the mentor) and a person with less of these. In a mentoring relationship, it is normal for the mentor to share experiences and offer advice to the client. The mentor’s action is based primarily on his or her expertise, acquired over a number of years through practical exposure to a wide variety of management and leadership situations.

Developmental mentoring seeks to strike a balance between the two approaches, combining the best of each. It is developmental because it uses coaching techniques to help clients discover their strengths, overcome inhibiting factors and grow in their careers. It is mentoring rather than coaching because it offers clients the benefit of a mentor’s personal experience and advice in confronting managerial or leadership issues. The Developmental Mentor thus takes on a dual role of executive coach and of personal consultant.

Qualities required of a Developmental Mentor

Certain personality traits are a prerequisite to exercising effectively any form of mentoring, coaching or counselling activity: active listening skills, rapport building and empathy are among the most important. The Developmental Mentor also needs to be skilled in coaching techniques and to have an understanding of the underlying psychological foundations of coaching. However, the most important attribute of a Developmental Mentor is something which cannot be learnt through training, but is acquired over many years of exposure to managerial and leadership situations in organisational settings: real-life experience. He or she is a seasoned executive who has “seen it all before”. The longer and more varied the experience of the Developmental Mentor, particularly at senior executive levels, the richer his or her knowledge and expertise are likely to be.

When is developmental mentoring of benefit?

Developmental mentoring is especially useful in accompanying executives through periods of change, e.g. in handling the challenges of a promotion or of a new job. It is best suited to the tackling of longer term career and development issues.