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Evan Davis : Coaching mentoring and the Bottom Line

Evan Davis explores coaching and mentoring for The Bottom Line


What do senior professionals make of coaching? Is it a rare privilege for the entitled few, just something to help people through a crisis, or something more universal and equitable?

I recently went back to an episode of BBC’s The Bottom Line in which journalist and presenter Evan Davis sat down with Gavin Patterson CEO of BT Group, Melanie Richards Vice Chairman and Partner of KPMG UK, and coach and mentor Jonathan Bowman-Perks to explore the growing interest among UK businesses in coaching. Here’s the episode.


The answers for your questions or the questions for your answers?


As a coaching professional, it was fascinating to hear what participants saw as the differences between coaching and mentoring. A nice distinction was that: “A coach has some great questions for your answers and a mentor has some great answers for your questions.” Both, in different ways, help “unravel what you’re thinking and feeling” whilst then “nudging and helping you get perspective.”


The relationship between the coach, mentor and the senior leader


Evan asked why, if coaches and mentors have such decisive expertise, companies didn’t just employ coaches and mentors to make decisions instead of senior leaders. Gavin and Melanie were clear that the decisions they made in their managerial roles were very much their own decisions. At senior level there is no shortage of people willing to give advice – the unique value of the coach/mentor relationship is that it’s one where the client is given the space to unpack the issues, evaluate the options, consider the trade-offs and blow away the smoke to allow them to see the landscape into which any decision will be taking them.

Manager decisions are scrutinised by their peers, staff, partners, and stakeholders. Particularly at senior levels every time a manager makes a decision it sends out a signal, and it’s not always easy for them to see the signals they are sending. It’s a point made also by Eric Schmidt, CEO of Microsoft, who is the on the record as saying: “everybody needs a coach” particularly because, as he puts it, we are not good at seeing ourselves as other people see us. Coaches really help bring perspective to these issues.


Evan’s guests discussed the value of coaching and mentoring in career transitions. On promotion “People don’t arrive fully baked” and a coach can be immensely valuable in helping build confidence, set priorities, and empowering the client to get to grips with the new relationships and dynamics of more senior leadership.


Success factors in a coaching and mentoring relationship


So what makes a coaching relationship successful? Whilst a lot is down to the skill and competence of the coach, it’s crucial that the client wants to engage in the process. Some clients are keen to engage from the off, whereas others may take a little time to see the value. But engagement is crucial, and a good coaching-client relationship is one where both parties prepare well for their conversations and are open to putting their discoveries into practice.


Coaching for all


Is coaching and mentoring just for managers at the most senior levels? No! All the panelists agreed that coaching was valuable at all strata of a business (KPMG offers coaching throughout its organisation). The focus of the activity will differ depending on the employee’s role, but all can benefit from it.


What’s stopping you working with a coach?


If you have previously worked with a coach and not been in touch for a while, now may be a good time to re-visit that relationship. If you have never worked with a coach, and are intrigued about how coaching can give you an edge in your career, support you through a life transition, or just give you some perspective at a confusing moment in life, why not contact me? A short telephone conversation may be all you need to decide to explore he value of working with you own coach.

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