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  • Writer's picturePaul De Decker

Coach - Mentor : what do you need ?

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

Coach or Mentor ? What is it that you need ?

There are plenty of sites that will give you contradictory explanations on the differences between a coach and a mentor.

In my opinion, it is irrelevant.

Sometimes you need somebody to help you find the answer within yourself, sometimes you need to get an answer / guidance. You need to learn and figure out your way, but also not starve from hunger (referring to teaching people to fish…).

You do need somebody you trust, because you will take his/her point of view as a valid base. And to openly discuss your “weaknesses”, there has to be trust.

Should the focus be on soft skills only ?

There seems to be a tendancy to focus on “empathic”, as if that is the only thing you need to do as a manager or leader.

It is 1 of the areas you need to be good at : people .

You also need to be good at setting realistic goals, creating a vision, ensuring adequate realisations … getting results. Cause without financial results you can’t pay salaries. Oops.

You need to find the balance between various aspects.

Should you develop as a team or only as an individual ?

From my own experience (as country manager and as “coach”) : both.

When I entered my entire management team in a development program (hard and soft

skills) the results were astounding : people understood each other, their way of deciding, creating a common language. Should have done it sooner.

When I now work with managers, one of the comments I get : “so that is how he/she functions, it is not a question of not wanting to listen… I can adjust my communication !”.

So do both. And surely don’t leave out the team.

Should your coach/mentor have business experience ?

I believe it is a must. You can only understand certain behaviours / actions when you have felt the pressure of “delivering results” or the disappointment of having to fire somebody. I never tell people what to do (at least I try not to do that, let’s be honest), I will tell them sometimes what worked for me in concrete cases.

And passing on experience in things like setting goals (still surprised how few set real SMART goals), defining clear expectations or creating an understandable vision … it helps.

Coach / Mentor ?

Define it yourself what you need and don’t let any fancy framework force you.

A question I ask myself regularly : can I make a difference to a company when I'm not being a full-time manager ?

I find this important because my customers pay me for assisting them in their decisions and their strategy.

Last week I got the following when I asked the question ...

"I now feel positive about the business. I learn a lot and you give me the time, the serenity and the methodologies to progress"

That is what I do : I help my client to progress whilst solving his issues.

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