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Navigating the Leadership Landscape: Mentoring, Coaching, and Managing Unveiled

Leader-managers in the health sector have various roles throughout their day, including coaching, mentoring, and managing their team members. But what exactly are the differences between these approaches, and when should you use each one for the best results?

As a manager, you have responsibilities to your team, the organization, and the clients of the health service. Your role ensures that things go according to plan and that services are delivered in line with the organization's mission.

Mentoring involves sharing knowledge, experience, and connections to provide advice and suggestions. It works best when a team member has a clear skill or knowledge gap. The mentor offers ideas and examples and may give opinions on preferred or recommended approaches.

Coaching, on the other hand, involves questioning to help the team member come up with their own answers and action plans. It is suitable when a team member already has a certain level of competence and is motivated to learn more. Coaching is not a remedial process or limited to performance management. It focuses on finding solutions and assumes that the individual is capable and resourceful. Coaching is an excellent approach for building the person's capability by guiding them to take action based on their own decisions.

A skilled leader-manager adjusts their style between managing, mentoring, and coaching based on the specific situation and the individual's level of knowledge, experience, and motivation to learn. They also recognize opportunities to empower team members to coach and mentor each other, freeing up their own time for key responsibilities and promoting the growth of the team's capabilities.

Mentoring and coaching conversations can often be brief. When approached on the fly, the leader-manager can pause and decide whether they want to mentor or coach the team member in response.

Mentoring example:

New graduate therapist: Oh, Andie, (the manager, or could be her clinical supervisor), I know it’s coming up next week in our induction program, but I feel like I need to know now for my new client – how should I discuss the content of our service agreement with them?

Andie: Yes, I can see why you’d want to know that now, as you are beginning your work with a new client. We have a guidance document on that for our staff, as well as a video showing you how one therapist approached discussing their service agreement with their client. I’ll email you the link to both now.

New graduate therapist: Perfect, thank you.

Coaching example:

New graduate therapist: Andie, I’ve now run my session with my client where we talked through our service agreement. It didn’t go exactly as the one in the video that you sent me. The thing is… I’m not sure if that’s a problem or not …. What do you think?

Andie: Ah, that’s interesting. How would you know if it was a problem?

New graduate therapist: Well, in my session, the client listened all the way through, and didn’t ask me any questions. So, in that way, there wasn’t any problems. The thing is, that by not asking me any questions, I wasn’t sure what her level of understanding was about what I spoke about, and whether she was happy with it, or not. I guess I need more information to know whether it’s all OK with her.

Andie: I see. What kind of information, would that information be?

New graduate therapist: Well, like how she’s feeling about the service agreement. Is she happy with it? Does she understand it? I’ll think I’ll ask her about it again at the next session and give her a chance to tell me if she’s OK with everything in the agreement.

Andie: Yes, that sounds like a good approach. Anything else?

New graduate therapist: Well…I guess, because I did talk a lot in that session, I might acknowledge that! And hopefully loosen it all up a bit… maybe she might find it easier to tell me then, if it was all a bit overwhelming, or anything, if I make the point that there was a lot of information I went through. So yes, I’ll go back and have a more casual chat about it and ask her how she felt about it.

Andie: Sounds like you have a plan you are comfortable with there!

Health leader-managers must prioritise protecting their time to focus on high-level strategy and overseeing the team's work. Coaching provides an opportunity for managers to develop the capacity of team members over time, rather than unintentionally reinforcing their role as the "expert" and encouraging frequent requests for help. This reduces the risk of overwork and burnout for the manager. Importantly, coaching allows team members autonomy in the way they do their job and builds trust and connection between the manager and team member.

Leaders in the health sector possess the transformative power to shape and develop their team members. With a range of choices and opportunities at their disposal, mentoring and coaching become invaluable tools to unlock the full potential of their teams.

Would you like to have the opportunity to practice using a coaching style in professional conversations, in a safe and supported environment? Enquire now about the Flourishing Leaders online group leadership coaching program.

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