In today’s competitive business environment, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to rise to the top of your game without some form of mentorship or executive coaching. We are getting to the point where the debate is not whether you need a coach or not. Rather, the debate is should you use an internal coach or an external coach.
In small companies, scope and capacity for internal mentors is limited due to the size and structure of the business. An external coach provides the additional perspective that is often lacking in a small business leadership team. However, in large organisations, there is definitely a place for both types of coaching. Internal mentorship is often preferable for mid-level management and high potential candidates. External coaching is often the domain of senior executives.
What works for you?
- The major benefit of internal mentors is the cost factor. The mentor is already earning a salary. Therefore, mentorship of up and coming employees should form part of the role, without having to incur additional expenses.
- Higher ranking directors and managers have technically “been there, done that”. They understand what it takes to rise to the next level. This makes them well placed to advise those following in their footsteps.
- Internal mentors are relevant where industry context, office politics and corporate culture needs to be considered in the growth of the individual.
- The internal mentor is on site, on the scene and in a better position to observe everyday engagement and behaviour. Issues can therefore often be addressed immediately rather than waiting for the next coaching session.
- Because an internal mentor is known to the employee, trust could be built quicker.
- The major disadvantage of internal mentorship is that the mentor is often too close to the situation. It is therefore difficult to offer an objective third party view, free from personal bias.
- An internal mentor won’t have a fresh approach and different ways of thinking.
- Internal mentors don’t have the experience and skills set to coach employees and are often growing and learning in the role.
- The internal mentor has day to day operational responsibilities that often take precedence.
- A fish rots from the head. Sometimes team performance and challenges are a direct result of a problem in the senior management leadership style. In this case, an internal mentor would merely be creating clones of more ineffective leaders.
- The primary benefit of an external coach is the outside perspective that a third party brings to the table. They can often see things that are not obvious to the individual’s manager or to people embedded in the organisation’s culture and processes.
- An external coach is politically neutral, with no vested interests or personal bias. This means they are better at maintaining objectivity and confidentiality.
- External coaches coach for a living. Because it’s their primary area of expertise, they often have more experience in coaching, and a bigger skill set and toolbox at their disposal.
- Candidates often feel more comfortable speaking openly and honestly to a neutral party. In addition, external coaches are more adept at providing sensitive feedback.
- An external coach has no other distractions with other internal responsibilities. Coaches have the task of focusing solely on the executive’s growth. Furthermore, their reputation and livelihood depends on the success of the executive coaching programme.
- External coaches are an expense, albeit an investment in high potential employees
- An outsider will be unfamiliar with the social norms of the company’s people and processes. This lack of intimate knowledge and understanding can sometimes slow down the trust building process with the employee.
- Executive coaching sessions are structured and intermittent. Therefore, the coach is often unable to observe the executive in action.
- Suggestions from the coach might not fit the company culture
If you believe an external business and executive coach could benefit your business and your team, contact me.