Peter Wilson talks mentoring with international developmental dialogue expert David Clutterbuck.
Peter Wilson: What are the essential differences for you between coaching and mentoring?
David Clutterbuck: Traditional coaching, involves a lot of feedback, a lot of observation and helping people plan their next move. The more directive styles of mentoring come from the same place.
Sponsorship mentoring, where the power of the mentor is really important, is mostly one-way learning. Developmental mentoring is about helping people with the quality of their thinking and that same definition could also apply to developmental coaching.
The biggest distinction is that coaching is always about some aspect of performance, even if it’s life coaching, whereas mentoring is always more holistic and much more focused on career.
PW: There has been enormous growth in facilitated mentoring schemes in Australia. Has Europe seen a similar growth?
DC: It’s massive – in some countries it’s overtaken coaching. We now have standards for it. There are a few organisations in Australia that have the international standard for mentoring programs. We’ve been working on facilitated mentoring programs in 50 countries around the world in the past 10 years and if you take into account some of the multinational companies applying these programs in all their territories it’s probably nearer 100 countries.
PW: What are the dos and don’ts you’ve picked up during the explosive growth in mentoring we’ve seen in the past few years?
DC: Don’t make programs too bureaucratic or people will rebel. At the same time, don’t assume that if you just do it informally it will happen, it won’t. You need a balance between the two.
PW: A lot of people don’t know how to get started. What are the tips you give to mentors and mentees to get the relationship moving along sensibly?
DC: Relationships gel when there is this sense of shared personal values, so having exercises that facilitate having that conversation [about shared values] makes a big difference.
It’s important not to get overly hung-up on goals at the beginning. Whatever goals somebody defines at the beginning of a relationship are going to evolve pretty rapidly.
PW: Do you see mentoring used much around issues such as gender equity, diversity and cross-cultural development?
DC: I would say that at least half the mentoring programs we are involved in have a diversity element to them.
PW: What makes a coaching or mentoring culture stick?
DC: It seems to stick when there is continuity in the program coordinator or manager. Having someone there to champion mentoring all the way through seems to make it work.
PW: How often should a mentor and mentee meet and is there any evidence that face-to-face is better than phone or email?
DC: If you meet more than once a month you are probably starting to do the line manager’s job. Although if the mentee is a young person you might want to meet once a fortnight. If you meet less than once every two months you haven’t got a relationship.
Face-to-face and email mentoring have pluses and minuses — you just have to approach them differently and accept their differences. What we are now finding more and more is mixed-media mentoring
PW: Talent is still the number one issue for firms around the world. What do companies need to focus on in developing their talent?
DC: Talent is special and unique – as soon as you try and make it sit in some sort of generic framework you are in danger of destroying it. Talent is impossible to define until you actually see it. The point is knowing how to support talent when it arrives.
About David Clutterbuck
Professor David Clutterbuck is a leading international authority on developmental dialogue. He is the author or co-author of 50 books, of which 14 relate specifically to coaching and mentoring, and hundreds of articles. He co-founded the European Mentoring Centre and helped steer its evolution into the European Mentoring and Coaching Council – the coordinating body for professional practice in this area in Europe.
He has been chair of both the UK and European research committees of the EMCC and is now a lifetime ambassador for the EMCC. He also founded the International Standards for Mentoring Programs in Employment.
The Sunday Independent ranked him number two among the UK’s top coaches. He also appears in the list of the UK’s top 25 most influential people in HR.
Clutterbuck is visiting professor at the Mentoring and Coaching Research Group, Sheffield Hallam University (MCRG) and visiting professor at the coaching and mentoring faculty of Oxford Brookes University. He is external examiner for Ashridge Business School’s coaching MBA and lectures on coaching and mentoring at universities and conferences around the world.