NORTH CAROLINA TURFGRASS: Don Brown
I recently sat in on an industry association panel on coaching and mentoring. The audience was made up of students and early and mid-career healthcare practitioners. The subject of mentoring and coaching comes up a lot these days, and if my own coaching practice is any indicator, I believe the interest is so great because it’s so difficult to get “developed” on the job anymore. Too many leaders are simply too over-stressed, over-worked or under-skilled to make that difference for their team members. In response, workers look for a coach or a mentor to help… yet most use the two terms interchangeably. They are not the same.
Dr. Paul Hersey, one of my mentors and the father of Situational Leadership, used to tell me “Don, if there is lack of clarity as to a word’s meaning – create an operational definition.” I’d like to do that now – first – before we discuss coaching and mentoring any further.
Mentor / Mentoring: Wise and trusted counselor, influential sponsor/supporter, entrusted with our care and education, advisor, master, guide
Coach / Coaching: Large horse-drawn carriage, a person who trains/instructs, a private tutor, teacher, trainer, instructor
I love these distinctions, and I had this healthcare group discuss these differences; a counselor or sponsor versus one’s tutor, trainer and instructor, the longer-term view of mentoring versus a shorter-term coaching assignment, a broader mentoring focus versus the sharper, narrower concentration of coaching. Then I asked them, under these definitions – what were they looking for, a coach or a mentor? Perhaps it was their demographics, yet resoundingly the answer was “coach” – with one voice of dissent. “I get the difference, but why do we even need a coach?” asked one man up front. I waited a moment, and then asked the audience if anyone golfed. Lots of hands went up. I asked if any of them had ever sliced… every hand stayed up. I asked how long they’ve been slicing… some responded, “for a lifetime.” After a pause, my response was, “A good swing coach can cure a slice in under an hour.”
So we want a coach, a short-term teacher. We need a coach, we can’t wait a lifetime to get better. The conundrum remains, how do we get a coach? In answer, let me paraphrase the advice of Uwe Kruger, a man who is both mentor and coach to me, to get us doing something different (we can’t help but get better):
1. Pick your spot – sit next to the ‘smartest kid in class’ – and pay attention.
2. Ask nicely – find the one thing you think they can teach you, and then ask politely enough so that you can actually learn it.
3. Courage matters – work with someone better than you, and then don’t be afraid of it.
To find yourself a coach, get comfortable showing what you don’t know, get close to the best, ask politely, pay attention and let go of fear and ego.
Don Brown dedicates his career to ‘helping people with people’ in leadership, sales and customer service. Bilingual and experienced at the executive and line-level alike, you see the results of his work across dozens of industries, including brewing, automotive, airline, banking and medical equipment.READ THE ISSUE