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Positive development through mentoring and coaching

We often find ourselves in positions in the workplace or life where we feel that we've reached the limit to our depth of knowledge in a given situation, instinctively knowing that more is required to solve our professional or personal dilemma. 

Fortunately, we do not have to know everything, since there is always someone who possess the knowledge or skillset to help us find practical solutions in a workplace or others who have more wisdom or experience to guide us through the stormy situations in our personal lives. All we need to do is ask.

I've learned a few valuable lessons in life concerning personal development. One of the most important was not to let pride overrule any situation. Instead, I've made sure to ask for help when I needed it – things can only intimidate you if you allow it to, but humility and the willingness to learn will get you further than anticipated. This principle has not just shaped my own life but has helped countless others whom I've had the opportunity to provide coaching or mentorship to informally. I don't have a certification in either field, but I've been around the block a few times, confirming the maxim that states, “Experience is the teacher of all things."

Although found in the same developmental space, there are distinct differences between coaching and mentorship. Coaching focusses on task and performance, and its impact can be measured at the end of the coaching period. Therefore, generally, coaching happens in the work context where the emphasis is placed on concrete issues, such as learning how to think strategically, writing reports, etc. Having a soft spot for young people who try to find their way in the professional world, I've subsequently coached a few of them from as little as advice on a Curriculum Vitae, preparing for an interview or navigating the inception period in a new job. Usually coaching is a short-term endeavour and can be conducted almost immediately on any given topic.

There were also bigger projects that had a significant impact on a business — one of these projects where Capricorn Group's monolithic brand architecture project which started in 2014. I've had the privilege to work with a young man who trained in the field of marketing research, and although I had a good idea what was needed for the business at the time, it was his countless hours of research that brought together the picture we needed to present to the executive management board. At first, he was unsure, but once I talked through the concept and gave him strategic input, the project itself emerged in ways and pillars that had us very excited. Today Capricorn Group is growing leaps and bounds towards a monolithic brand. This is the kind of impact that coaching can have. As a coach, I've helped set the goals, gave guidelines and measured the performer periodically, while I ensured that a good working relationship was in place. Mentoring, on the other hand, plays a different role.

The role of the mentor is to build competence and is more relationship orientated, rendering mentorship a much longer lifespan that often turns into friendship. It provides a safe environment where the mentored shares whatever issues affect his or her professional and personal success. The focus includes things such as work/life balance, self-confidence or career choices. The mentor helps the mentee discover their wisdom by encouraging them to work towards their career goals or become independent. Mentoring has a design phase typically to determine the strategic purpose of mentoring – mainly to develop the individual for the present and the future. The design will also identify focus areas, specific mentoring models and components that will guide the relationship, especially similar areas.

For myself though, the answer is often centred around the element of giving. Ben Carson said, “Happiness does not result from what we get, but from what we give." I find this very true indeed. The total sum of our lives equals not just our experiences and successes, but also the stumbling blocks and failures, which we can use as leverage to build others. In return, we receive joy and a sense of purpose, a more significant connection to others and new ideas. It is also true that we cannot learn more about ourselves if we are not willing to give of ourselves - including our time and willingness to help others.

Giving supports us to understand that no one is beyond coaching or mentoring. Every one of us requires guidance at some point in life, whether it is as simple as working on a spreadsheet or something in our personal lives that need deeper evaluating. Despite the numerous personal benefits that arise from either coaching or mentoring the value of these two techniques provides an array of benefits for organisations of all sizes. Companies use a mixture of both coaching and mentoring to develop strong, capable teams with a higher employee retention rate generated from a greater sense of connection and commitment to the business, and significance as employees become more positive and productivity increases. It can also determine the identification of the next group of leaders in the organisation.

I think it's safe to say that the principles of mentoring and coaching are here to stay. Researchers traced back the terms to an adviser named Mentor, who was Odysseus's son. In the education field, mentoring and coaching are now viewed as essential schools in performance management and professional development. As we evolve with the times, the working environment will require a shift in the way we do things and how we adapt, making mentoring and coaching invaluable tools for a digital future. 

Two common factors that I've identified from my personal experience in mentoring and coaching is Accountability and Adaptability. Both mentor/coach and mentee/coached would do well if they incorporated these two elements in the process and their attitudes towards it. We all need to accept the fact that we are accountable for our personal development, the decisions we make, how we implement them in our lives, and that we cannot go far if we are not willing to adapt to the challenges presented to us. Zig Ziglar declared, “It is your attitude, more than your aptitude, that will determine your altitude." Thus, what you think about yourself and your prospects dictates your level of success.​​

By Gida Nakazibwe Sekandi, Independent Non-Executive Director, Capricorn Group​​

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