Lighting the Way: From Coaching to Mentoring

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to strengthen your ability to develop future leaders. Reading time: 4:26.

The Mentor’s Spotlght

       You’re a coach, a mentor and a leader. Are you wearing three different hats or one hat three different ways?

        The most effective leaders know they are wearing — Three Different Hats —for three very different situations.

       They also know, understand, and can apply the difference with a distinction which helps them become even more instructive and constructive as a coach; even more influential and insightful as a mentor and even more energizing and galvanizing as a leader.

            Indeed all three disciplines –coaching, mentoring and leading— light the way for others. Coaches light the way with headlights. Mentors light the way with spotlights. And leaders light the way with limelights.

 Coaches Light the Way with Headlights

        Envision yourself driving down a highway at night. Your headlights light up a specific area – just ahead . The road is well mapped with clear and distinct destination points (responsibilities, objectives and indicators).

      Like a headlight, a coach illuminates a short-term goal, defines the expected performance and clarifies the necessary outcomes. The coach knows precisely where that road leads. That’s why the coach by definition must be the employee’s immediate supervisor. The coach is as vested in the result as fully as the employee is.

      Much like a coach of a sports team, the coach is figuratively with the employee at all times on the playing field –helping, guiding, steering, encouraging, consulting , observing and adjusting that well-defined road ahead.


Leaders Focus on the Lighting the Stage

              Like the coach in the Conestoga Wagon Pioneer Days in the American West, a coach’s function is for carrying passengers and their luggage (a.k.a. baggage). That’s what coaches in sports and in business do: they help to carry their passenger/player/employee down the well-lit road straight ahead. Their horses wear blinders to keep them even more focused straight ahead.

Mentors Light the Way with Spotlights

      Meanwhile a spotlight of the mentor broadens the view to a wider circle. Now your view is four times more varied. Now instead of looking just straight ahead you can as far to the left and to the right and even to the rear.

      The 360-degree view is more complex with more variables and more opportunities for creative growth and new possibilities. The spotlight also shines further into the future and farther toward the horizons to the left and right of you.

           The spotlight of a mentor  lights the way 2-5 years into the future so that a mentee can get a better look at their surroundings and a better evaluation of their skills, abilities and interests in this ever-changing context. There is no map to a specific destination. There is no one way to get from here to there. There are no guidelines, no yellow line to follow.

Coaches light the road ahead

           But there is plenty of guidance to navigate the unseen bumps in the road as the mentor shares his or her insights and experiences gleaned on one or more of those vectors on that 360 degree lighted area. The Mentor’s bright spotlight often blinds and binds more than illuminates. That’s when the mentor has to filter out and focus some of that unwanted light coming in from a wayward angle. Small wonder  then why the mentor generally is NOT the employee’s immediate  supervisor. There are just too many distractions from the supervisors point of view to mentor and coach.

Leaders Light the Way with Limelights

       The leader’s role is to light the stage, to make sure the audience can see and interact with the actors—with the coaches and with the mentors. The leader sets the mood, creates the atmosphere, much like the limelights did on stage before electricity when the stage seemed to glow when cylinders of quicklime or calcium oxide were burned.

      Even today we acknowledge that something is prominently on display for all to see when say it is “in the limelight.” And so is leadership basking in the glow of the stage lights for all to see and react to no matter what road they are traveling no matter what kind of coach they are riding. And without regard to passing the hat.

 Today’s ImproveMINT

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