What’s the difference: training, coaching, teaching, mentoring?

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. For additional reading on these topics, check out this list.

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/

Reduce mistakes and cultivate innovation in your team with “The Ladder”

The Ladder helps you do two things successful teams need

The Ladder helps improve execution and promote innovation

Success comes from flawless execution and constant innovation (if you don’t believe me, read the books at the end of this post). I believe the challenge leaders face is to ensure that the routine work of the team takes up as little brain power as possible–so that we can apply our collective smarts to the unexpected problems. And without constant innovation, our methods become stale, and our team members approach their work with the enthusiasm of TPS reports. My simple work organization tool called The Ladder helps you balance flawless execution and constant innovation–and make sure you see progress every week.

First outcome: “the best teams do routine things routinely”

Many aspects of your team’s performance happen on a regular schedule, but with variable results and effort. Depending on your industry, the specific examples will change (processing invoices, responding to customer inquiries, etc.) but the common transactional work your team does each month represents your biggest risk for both errors that cost your business money and frustration/boredom that tempts your best talent to look for a new job. The Ladder is a means of engaging your team to get the bugs out of your regular transactional tasks, so that you all save brain power (and money) to tackle new and unexpected challenges.

Second outcome: keep innovating

To keep your best talent engaged and stay ahead of your competition, you will need to bring new ideas to market, in addition to finding new ways to do routine work. The Ladder gives you a simple framework to collect, prioritize, and develop these ideas in a way that brings blue-sky thinking into the real world.

Four steps to using the Ladder

  1. Hang the Ladder in a private, yet visible space: with a plotter or marker on a flip chart, use the image above as a template. Keep the Ladder visible to your team, but consider whether the information is appropriate for your customers or other “non-core” personnel to see.
  2. Two minute drill to fill up the radar with your team’s current knowledge. Organize a 15 minute initial meeting, and start with a concise explanation to your team of the Ladder’s purpose and how you’ll use it. Then set a timer for 2 minutes and release a flood of sticky notes onto the radar. Each sticky note needs a description and the initials of the person who posts it (to provide descriptive details in the future).
  3. Weekly reviews to recap progress and provide focus. Each week, each person on the team picks a single item to advance to the next rung of the latter. Report back on how you did last week, whether you are keeping the same focus or picking a new horse. Use a different color sticky note for active items. Don’t forget your role to coach and motivate throughout.
  4. Reward, recognize, and celebrate. This is your chance as a leader to show some creativity for rewarding your team. Steak dinner for the whole team every time an item reaches the “routine rung” on the Ladder? Every new item on the “idea rung” gets an entry for a monthly drawing for a $50 coffee shop gift card? You decide what’s right for your team, but make sure to trigger intrinsic motivators (see below), and reward both participation and success.

Learn more about Execution, Innovation, and Motivation

Once you’ve tried out the Ladder, let me know how it works! I look forward to your comments

How to be a better consultant? Hire one. Four lessons I learned as a client.

In ten years as a consultant I have taken all of my clients’ feedback to heart and soaked up as many books by the “industry apostles” (like Maister and Sobel) as I could. Sadly, some of those lessons didn’t resonate until my next assignment. To make textbook lessons real, the best experience was to see the situation from the other side of the table: as a client to other consultants helping my firm with sales, IT, or recruiting. You might wonder what took me so long to realize these things…but as with any challenge, the answer seems obvious after the fact.

Here are the key points from my experience in the client’s seat that have made me a better consultant:

1. Orient me to the plan every time you provide an update. Yes, this project is all you do around the clock, but I have other responsibilities and distractions, even if they aren’t as exciting. So in each of your updates, start out with a quick recap of the plan, where we are now, and what is happening next. In our conversations and emails, make it clear when you are asking me to make a decision vs. providing information. Hints are great for Pictionary, but not when we have a project to deliver together.

2. Scope creep is always slimy unless the core deliverables are outstanding. Yes, there is a lot more opportunity out there. And yes, I could see us working together on some other projects in my business. But I will question your focus if you suggest expanding our scope until our current deliverable is going really, really well. Don’t worry, when the value and “pull” for additional work are clear in my mind, I will ask you.

3. Give me genuine choices if you want to be a partner rather than a vendor. Over the course of our work together, you’ll have many opportunities to give guidance about the project. I expect you to consider a number of alternatives before presenting me with your best option. And when those final few choices aren’t visible to me, I’m going to feel like my only choices are to do as you suggest or figure something out on my own. And if your suggestion doesn’t “feel” right to me–even if it’s the right choice after deliberation–I’m more likely to start making directives of my own for you to follow. So if we are going to work together as partners, please keep doing all the great research and thought I pay you for, and include me in making that last cut of options so we can move forward with mutual confidence.

4. Recognize the investment that I have to make in you — beyond the dollars. My investment in you and your company spans a few areas: time I could be doing other work (or seeing my family); sharing knowledge of my business, industry, and personal style; and reputational risk to my managers and peers if we don’t succeed or if your team is a cultural misfit. Of course I stand to gain a lot from our relationship, in terms of results and learning, and I know that, otherwise I wouldn’t have taken that second sales meeting. So the best thing you can do is acknowledge, in both words and actions, that you appreciate the investment and are working in our mutual long-term best interest.

image: http://www.thinkbuzan.com

What have I missed from your own lessons? thanks for your comments!

How do I deliver a tough message to a new client?

The short answer is to deliver the message the same way you’d like to hear it: respectfully, objectively, and with brutal honesty that will get you to a better place.

Many consultants confuse being liked with being valued. Of course, it is possible to be both at the same time! The danger, however,  Continue reading “How do I deliver a tough message to a new client?”