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Four Scenarios, Four Styles

If your development style resembles Gordon Ramsay's, read this post and then get professional help

Subtle differences between the interactions of training, coaching, teaching, and mentoring can produce drastically different outcomes. Just as it is important to have a variety of leadership styles available to help you lead effectively in different situations, you must also be comfortable switching between development styles as appropriate.

Training – to help a person master a specific skill in a direct (or “hands on”) interaction, use Training. To use a situation outside of work as an analogy, let’s imagine you want to help your daughter (or son, spouse, or roommate, depending on your situation) learn to make her own breakfast. The Training style involves getting the ingredients and recipe out, and working next to her at the stove to make an omelette together. After a few attempts, she will do more and more of the task herself until she is independently proficient.

Coaching - for a specific skill, but now in an indirect (or “hands off”) interaction, use Coaching. For the omelette example, this means talking to your daughter before (and/or after) breakfast for a conversation. Ask questions to reinforce knowledge and help her anticipate setbacks before they occur. Give tips and tricks that have helped you succeed at the same task. Great coaches also help to boost confidence and reduce anxiety to improve performance.

Teaching – increase capability in a general suite of skills through direct interactions with Teaching. You can help your daughter master a number of breakfast recipes from crepes to congee, over a series of lessons in the kitchen. A wise teacher in this case will also include effective dish washing in the curriculum! Teachers help build skills in a number of tasks, plus help to generalize the approach they teach to enable success in related (but not identical) situations.

Mentoring – the most abstract development method, mentoring builds capability in general skills through indirect interactions. Mentoring your daughter in this analogy would include conversations to explore why independence and proficiency in meal preparation is important, what she enjoys most and least about what she’s learning, etc. Great mentors fill in blind spots, clarify motivations, and remove mental obstacles to success over longer-term interactions.

Because it is hard for a consultant to explain anything without a 2 x 2 matrix, I have included the table below for reference.

How do these definitions match your experiences? Thanks for your comments!

image: http://scienceblogs.com/aardvarchaeology/

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