Archive | July, 2014

Mentoring disadvantaged young people

9 Jul

Mentoring for disadvantaged young people can be divided into a start and five phases:
1. Commitment.
2. The Clarification Phase
3. The Confidence Phase
4. The Instruction Phase
5. The Maturation Phase
6. The Concluding Phase

The phases are not of identical duration. The confidence phase, the instruction phase and the maturation phase occupy most time. It is vital to stick to the sequence of the phases, because a continuous development is taking place throughout the phases.
To establish a mentor-mentee relationship, both parties must engage in cooperationto achieve one or more common objectives. If the objective is blurred or not interesting to one of the parties, they will lack involvement and motivation. Involvement and motivation are the driving force of every mentoring relationship.
“Commitment” means that the mentor and the mentee initially have to establish a connection; a bond. Both of them need to build some enthusiasm about the relationship that is about to be established. Without this, it will be difficult to get a constructive result out of the mentoring relationship.
Often the objective is evident to the mentor, but not to the mentee. For instance, the objective of the mentorship in an educational institution might be to retain a potential drop-out student in his education process. However, if the mentee does not think that he needs support to achieve this, it will be difficult to arouse motivation. In the initial phase of a mentoring relationship, you need to make the mentee “take the bait.” Generally, you have just one attempt. The dominant sentiment in mentees often seems to be “WIIFM” – What´s In It For Me?
The clarification phase
The purpose of the clarification phase is to determine the circumstances of the mentee and in which fields he needs a helping hand. What are the challenges facing the mentee? What needs attention to achieve the objective?
The pre-eminent duty of the mentor in this phase is to listen, to explore by means of questions and to observe. The mentor needs to uncover the reasons why the marginalised person is dysfunctional, for instance at school, in the work place or in his private life. A word of caution: In this phase, do not concentrate solely on what the mentee is unable to, but also observe what the mentee is good at!
The confidence phase
In this phase, the mentor and the mentee begin to know each other well. It is a crucial phase in which the parties build mutual trust and confidence. Positive contact from the beginning is a vital prerequisite for entering the instruction phase later. It is also on the basis of confidence that the mentor is considered deserving to probe in to the core of the problems behind the mentee’s barriers and challenges. It is vital that the mentor takes a genuine interest in his mentee.
When the mentee senses that you are sincerely interested and actually care about him or her, confidence blossoms. For this reason you must remember the small things that the mentee tells you, and follow up on them. It might be minor matters like asking what a planned concert actually was like – but also major matters like asking how the conference with the council representatives or the bank turned out. The essence is to observe, listen and try to understand your mentee.
Once confidence has been established, the skeletons might start to come out of the closet. This is where you, as a mentor, must be aware of your limitations. You can listen, but if professional treatment from a doctor, a psychologist, an abuse consultant or a social case worker is needed, you must refer the mentee to the relevant agency or authority– typically the one that referred the mentee to you.
The confidence phase is a very exciting period of the relationship because so much happens. It can be difficult to determine when your mutual confidence has been established. One positive sign is when the mentee starts taking an interest in you and your life.
The instruction phase
This phase can also be termed the correction phase or teaching phase. It is intended to make the mentee conscious of what needs to be done in order to achieve the objective. It is during this phase that you can really be frank and direct the attention of your mentee to any harmful behaviour or to competences that need to be developed. Keep your focus on what it takes to attain to the objective. It might also turn out that the objective is too ambitious or unachievable. In this case you will have to fragment it into intermediate objectives that are attainable within a short term.
Typically, in this phase the mentor asks questions, listens, challenges viewpoints, corrects, directs, supports, reflects, tests and provides feedback containing praise as well as criticism.
It is during the instruction phase that the mentor starts working in earnest. If you have been too superficial during the clarification phase and the confidence phase, you might be able to teach the mentee something, but this will rarely be enough to change anything fundamentally because you will not have exposed the root causes of the problems.
Once confidence has been built, the mentee can handle a lot, and the mentor can really get close and personal. The mentee senses that the mentor likes him or her. And in his or her mind there is no reason to believe that the mentor would suddenly say something or make demands that are not well-intentioned. It could be a discussion of personal hygiene, anti-social behaviour, language etc. The mentee is sure to perceive it as genuine concern, even though the mentor is very direct and insistent.
The maturation phase
The maturation phase is the climax of any mentoring process. Following an instruction period in which responsibility is gradually transferred, the mentee must now fully assume responsibility for himself. Some use the term “self-government” to describe the ability and need to mature and develop into a free, independent, responsible and socially minded individual who is able to realise his objectives through learning, development and growth.
Consequently, the mentor must relinquish more and more control and allow the mentee to assume responsibility for himself during the maturation phase. It is to no avail if the mentoring process is coming to a conclusion and the mentor still has to call the mentee every morning to get him out of bed. The mentee has to learn how to assume personal responsibility and draw on others in his personal network for support and help.
It is not uncommon that the mentee suffers a relapse during this phase. Some are scared by their success because the feeling is unfamiliar to them. They feel more secure when they receive help and are confirmed in their self-perception as vulnerable persons. All of a sudden they have to discard the role of victim. This is a significant change of identity and can seem frightening. It takes continual praise and encouragement to conquer this fear.
The concluding phase
Regardless of when a mentoring process is ends, it is a decisive phase. Many marginalised people have seen people disappear out of their lives without having opportunity to say goodbye properly.
The mentor must therefore not postpone the farewell to the final meeting with the mentee. The mentor should bring up the topic little by little as the process nears its conclusion. It is often beneficial to a mentee to have a chance to talk about how he or she feels at the prospect of terminating the relationship. The mentor might open by expressing his or her own feelings regarding the termination of the relationship and then allow the mentee to do the same. It is important to create an opportunity to say goodbye in a healthy and respectful manner.

Article written by Tom Pedersen

Why mentors need supervision

9 Jul

All the coaching professional bodies in Europe and many bodies in other continents require coaches to have supervision. Few corporate buyers of coaching in Europe would hire a coach, who did not have a high level of formal qualification and regular, professional supervision. So why isn’t the same expected of mentors?

The traditional response has been to point to the amateur/ professional distinction. Executive coaches are typically seen as being professionals, and compared with other professions, such as therapy and counselling, where supervision has long been an essential part of continuous professional development, quality management and the maintenance of boundaries, especially in terms of client protection. Mentors, by contrast, have typically been seen as amateurs – less well-trained, operating in an unpaid capacity.

That assumption is increasingly questionable, for a number of reasons:
• The emergence of professional mentors, who have equal levels of training compared to their coach counterparts (plus substantial and relevant experience to the client’s role). When the European Mentoring & Coaching Council established the first competency framework for the field over a decade ago, it referred to coaches and mentors equally, recognising that both coaches and mentors could take on professional roles and that this required supervision. This prescience provides a ready platform for mentor supervision, at least in Europe.
• Mentoring programme managers in several countries, including the UK and Denmark, have offered group supervision to “ordinary” mentors, on the basis that they want to perform well in the role. These sessions provide an opportunity to surface problems within the mentoring programme, to create a sense of camaraderie amongst the mentors, and to support the mentors in gaining higher levels of knowledge and skills.
• Most executive coaching takes place in the context of achieving specific short-term skills or performance goals. A much smaller proportion addresses medium–term behavioural issues, and even less aims to achieve personal transformation. Mentoring, however, tends to be a longer-term relationship involving relatively high levels of disclosure and intimacy. It focuses on helping the mentee become rather than on what they do. The potential for boundary and other issues that need supervision to arise is therefore very similar to that for coaches working on deep behavioural and transformational issues.
• Mentors and mentees within the same organisation may be exposed to all sorts of pressures, from which they need to stand back. For example, the mentor’s knowledge of the system and its politics can be a great benefit; but it can also bring with it a lot of baggage. Supervision helps the mentor determine when and how to use their knowledge to beneficial effect; when to “park” their own knowledge; and how to separate their values, ambitions and career needs from those of their mentees.
• Executive coaching, by and large, is primarily an assignment – a finite contractual arrangement. Mentoring is primarily a relationship – and, like all relationships complex and difficult to understand from within. While international standards for mentoring recommend that mentor and mentee regularly review their relationship, supervision can help the mentor reflect more deeply on the relationship dynamics and how they and the mentee can achieve, for example, greater trust, openness and sense of purpose. One of the most common occurrences in mentoring is “relationship droop” – the sogginess that comes after six months or so, when the easy, surface issues have been dealt with. Through supervision, the mentor can work with the mentee to delve into deeper issues, with much greater potential impact on the mentee’s career. Similarly, the ending of a mentoring relationship can be difficult for both mentor and mentee. If the relationship simply fades away, both parties feel that they have in some way failed or been abandoned. This is almost never the case, when the mentor has a supervisor to discuss these emotions with and to help plan how to achieve a positive, fulfilling formal ending.

Britain’s National Health Service and the Danish trade union Djoef are two strong examples of organizations, which have embraced supervision as integral to the effectiveness of their mentoring programmes. But a handful of examples don’t make a trend. What is clear is that the professional bodies that incorporate mentoring, and the mentoring academies now springing up around the world, are all taking the topic seriously.

© David Clutterbuck, 2014

Yet another reason to focus more on the team and less on individuals

9 Jul

Having a team full of superstars doesn’t lead to high performance, according to research by Roderick Swaab, a professor at Insead business school, and his colleagues . His researches indicate that when two-thirds of the team are star performers, they co-operate less and become more competitive with each other. The reason seems to be that stars have become habituated to being recognised and rewarded for their individual performance, so the more other stars they see around them, the more competitive they feel. So they hoard information and waste energy jostling for position.

So should you avoid creating a team of stars? Not necessarily. But you do need to manage them differently. In particular:
• Avoid any kind of individualised reward or incentive, if you want them to work as a team. Make rewards collective.
• Reward and recognise teamwork – but again, collectively. If someone isn’t being a team player, the rest of the team will most likely bring pressure to bear on them. If that doesn’t work, then it’s time for a frank discussion about whether they are suitable for this team.
• Hold frequent conversations about how they can be more effective in supporting each other. Establish team priorities and encourage team members to subordinate their own priorities to these.
• Establish the principle that everyone is responsible for both their own learning and the learning of other team members.
• Make the team the star. Work with them to build the reputation of the team, so that outsiders recognise the individual for being part of a bright nebula.
• Recognise that they all have big egos and openly discuss how to harness these for the benefit of the team, rather than let them undermine the team. The greatest antidote to excessive egoism is laughter, so encourage the team and its members to laugh at themselves.

It will still be a tough challenge to manage a team of stars. But when they work together, as a true team, great things can happen!

© David Clutterbuck, 2014

Measuring the impact of team coaching

3 Jul

The pressure to measure the effectiveness of any form of coaching intervention can be intense. Coaches and sponsors both feel driven to demonstrate a high return on investment (RoI). Unfortunately, most of the attempts to measure RoI are not methodologically robust and hence don’t carry much credibility. In particular, they rely on self-report by clients and/or sponsors, who have vested interests in positive outcomes; and they lack evidence of cause and effect. The problem isn’t helped by the fact that effective coaching typically changes the goals people are working on, so any initial SMART measures agreed can become rapidly obsolete. Sometimes achievement of initial goals may not be a positive outcome at all!

Then there’s the issue of timescale. The simple, relatively shallow objectives tend to be achievable within the lifetime of the coaching intervention. But the deeper, more beneficial outcomes may not occur until much later. The most important outcome of coaching is often propensity – the creation of a capability for change that may only be exercised with future circumstances and opportunities.

When it comes to team coaching, the problem of RoI becomes even more complex. Now we have to deal with both collective and individual outcomes, which may or may not be compatible. (For example, it’s possible for everyone in the team to make individual improvements in performance, but without any significant positive impact on collective performance.)

Yet measurement in some form is an important part of the coaching package. Clients, whether individuals or teams, need some sense of whether they are making progress. The act of measurement stimulates reflection on process and often re-energises change. It indicates when new approaches or new thinking are needed. And, of course, it helps to reassure paymasters that all is well.

In our work with various kinds of team, a pragmatic approach to measurement has emerged that makes it possible to assess both short-term actual outcomes and propensity for change. It does not necessarily lend itself to tick-box measures, nor to numbers based analysis. Rather, it relies on the quality of narrative in relation to five key questions:

1. Does the team have greater understanding of its internal and external context/dynamics, in so far as it affects performance?
2. Does it have greater clarity of what it wants/needs to do as a result?
3. What actions have they taken? What are they doing differently?
4. What impacts can they define and attribute to those changes?
5. Can these impacts be assessed from multiple perspectives?

A simple yes or no answer isn’t acceptable here. What’s required is detailed evidence through example (a coherent narrative of change) and input from as many sources as possible – the team itself, its key stakeholders, the coach and interested observers.

Appropriately, these questions are highly compatible with the team coaching process itself, so they can be built into the team coach’s interventions and become a significant part of the team’s learning about itself and its environment.

© David Clutterbuck, 2014