“If I decide to be a community coach, then I can help others contribute, and we all benefit, but I don’t know how to do it right.”
Part 3: Clarify your coaching role
Even when developers (Coaches) have excellent coaching skills and the match between the developer and learner is a good one, problems can arise during coaching if either is unclear about the developer's role. At the very beginning of the coaching relationship, it is essential that both the developer and the learner understand whether the development interactions will be based on your being the learner's manager, mentor, or coach.
Although managers, mentors, and coaches perform many of the same coaching functions, their roles in relation to the learner are different. The specific role you have directly affects the coaching expectations, subsequent relationship, and eventual success of the coaching. The above graphic shows the similarities and differences among and between the three roles.
As a community coach, you want to master the center (intersection) activities, and maybe grow your relationship into one of the other capacities when it makes sense.
Manager- If the learner reports to you, you are coaching as a manager. The manager has the most firsthand information about the learner, as well as the most authority with which to influence the learner's growth and development. At the same time, because the manager directly affects the learner's income, current work responsibilities, and future promotions and is not bound by an agreement of confidentiality, learners may be more reluctant to share relevant information during the coaching process.
Mentor- You are coaching as a mentor if the following apply: The learner does not work for you and you are not responsible for his or her performance evaluation, you are not specifically paid to coach others or trained as a professional coach, and you have voluntarily agreed to coach the learner. Learners often perceive mentors as having the most organizational expertise and political savvy. However, because mentoring is usually voluntary and not part of the mentor's paid work, fewer mentors are available that are either managers or coaches. Also, while some mentors work in a strictly confidential manner, others do not.
Coach- If you are hired and trained to coach individuals and the learner does not work for you, you are a coach. Coaches usually have the most time and training for coaching and normally work under a complete confidentiality agreement with the learner. As a result, learners confide more in coaches than in managers or mentors. At the same time, coaches rarely have the same level of management experience as managers and mentors, and they often do not possess the same degree of organizational knowledge. However, because coaches are not directly involved in the organization's business, they are often perceived as the most objective or neutral type of developer.
NOTE: Human resource professionals who work inside an organization and coach others as a part of their job responsibilities normally function in the role of "coach" described above. However, some internal HR professionals function more as mentors than coaches and should use the mentoring role descriptions as their guide.
Although coaching arrangements can vary widely, all effective developers must perform specific functions. For example, coaching can be done in person or by phone; developers and learners may have meetings as often as several times per week, as infrequently as once a month, or even on an as-needed basis; and coaching conversations can be as short as IS-minute emergency conversations or as long as several days.
All Community developers or coaches need to fulfill the following CORE functions for learners:
- Offer a different perspective
- Serve as a sounding board so that learners can share and then reflect on their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
- Tell "teaching" stories that communicate important messages
- Share relevant firsthand experiences
- Give honest feedback
- Suggest development activities and provide other resources as needed
REMINDER: Before you begin the development process, it is important that both you and the learner understand your role- including its strengths and limitations- and confidentiality boundaries.