Organizational excellence – Importance of training coaching and mentoring

May 23, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Posted in Blogroll, Organizational Excellence, Practice Excellence | Leave a comment

Last week I was referred to an article on “5 lessons entrepreneurs can learn from Navy SEALs”. There were comments; both supportive and critical. However, few things stood out which everybody seemed to agree on. These were – intensive and continuous training; not to go by what people just talk but see it in actual practice; and importance of preparing people for different situations.

Though the term training was used throughout, some aspects really belong to coaching. We tend to use the three related terms – training, coaching & mentoring – often interchangeably so I was interested to understand difference between them. Looking up on the net made me more confused than before, so decided to put down the gist of what I read, in terms which made sense to me. These are tentative and open to improvement and your inputs are most welcome. However, I will try to see if it gives us greater clarity in terms of how to apply the learning from Navy SEALS to the organizational context. Here go my definitions,

Training: Explain concepts and make sure they are understood. Explain practices and make sure the participants can execute them.
Coaching: Make the team members repeat good practices till they become second nature. Prepare them to face different situations by practicing variations.
Mentoring: Integrate practices in a cohesive whole to meet the needs of individuals and teams. Get the team members to support each other in reviewing and updating practices.

Going by these interpretations of the three terms, we can say that both training & coaching relate to specific areas whereas mentoring is holistic. Training when supplemented by coaching makes it more durable & long lasting. Each of the three requires different skill sets and mentoring requires a broader combination of skills which is rarer to find than the skills required for training / coaching.

In the context of business organizations, there would be some differences than the approach advocated in the referred article. For example,

The article says that “The SEALs are trained in a nearly identical manner and no one SEAL is indispensable to the unit or the mission. The nature of combat is that anyone can be lost at any time”. The nature of their operations makes the loss quite sudden; in organizations there would be more time to make alternate arrangements. Secondly, quick execution almost without thinking needs identical training whereas in organizations there is greater scope to adjust it to the personality and unique needs of the group of individuals. There was another reference I came across last week which was a review of the book “How NASA builds teams” by Charles J Pellerin. The author has built a “new system of team building which revolves around helping people identify their personality types and taking that into account for better communication”. This seems quite useful in case of organizations.

The article also talks of the “price of settling for mediocrity”. While it is desirable to get rid of mediocrity from organizations as much as possible, it is even more important to be clear about what exactly is being mediocre. In my view, it is more related to the person’s attitude. Many a times we tend to relate to a mediocre performance which could be result of a misfit between the requirements of a role and the talents / skill set of the person. By bringing about better alignment, the performance can go up from mediocre to extraordinary. However, mediocre attitude would always lead to mediocre performance.

Your views and inputs are very valuable; please share them with me.


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