Marica's meanderings

Friday, November 05, 2004

Coaching and mentoring

Tell me and I will forget;
Show me and I may remember;
Involve me and I will understand.
Confucius 450BC

Over the last two days I attended a course on Coaching and Mentoring at the University of Auckland Business School. The course is part of the University’s short course programme, and was facilitated by Anouk Graav. I included this course in my programme as part of my leadership development and also because of my growing interest in the role of mentoring in professional development.

From the moment you walked into the room you knew this workshop was not going to be a traditional "chalk and talk" workshop – there were no desks in sight! Some of the participants were surprised by this informality and initially felt uncomfortable. They soon got over it and settled into the environment without too much worry.

The workshop was an experiential learning process. A vital component of this was reflection both on an individual and also at a group level. The workshop basically took the format of an introduction to the theory by Anouk, a practical exercise involving role play and simulation, personal reflection, feedback and discussion in the group we were working with and then we came back together as a large group and shared our experiences and discussed these. Anouk was a guide throughout this process demonstrating both coaching and mentoring skills to us by role modeling good practice.

We were introduced to a number of different models and theories which included:

  1. The six gateways to coaching and mentoring - guiding, meaning, challenging, feeling, enabling and supporting.
  2. Exploring the continuum between mentor direction and self-direction.
  3. Observing, sensing and working with overt and covert (non) verbal cues.
  4. Session management and keeping overall focus.
  5. Building trust, coach and mentor presence and integrity.
  6. Examining the uniqueness and the boundaries of the coaching and mentoring process.

Anouk presented us all with a simple visual reminder of all of these models in the form of a cardboard cube which we can keep on our desks. At the beginning of the first day these made no sense at all. By the end of the second day it was all very familiar to us.

Coaching and mentoring is about ongoing personal and professional development and maintenance. The key is its ongoing nature and it is definitely not about crisis management. I particularly liked the way Anouk presented coaching and mentoring as being connected and not as two separate processes. Both aspects are needed to ensure long term learning and change. Coaching is a more action oriented approach which focuses at the practical and conceptual level. Mentoring on the other hand is more reflective and focuses on the bigger picture.

The most exciting thing to come out of this workshop for me was the clear defined structure Anouk provided us with to enable us to be effective coaches and mentors. It was fantastic practicing our new skills with people from such diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

I’d highly recommend the course to anyone. My challenge now is to try and work out how coaching and mentoring in this face-to-face structure translates into an e-environment. This has become a particular area of interest for me since I have been participating in an online mentoring process as part of my FLLinNZ development. My mentor is a former Australian Flexible Learning Leader, Chris Sutton, who is based in Noosa. I have not yet met Chris and our mentoring relationship has developed completely at distance. As I have participated in this experience I keep being surprised as to how powerful and effective it is.

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