In today’s competitive business environment, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to rise to the top of your game without mentorship or coaching. We are at the point where the debate is beyond whether you need a coach or not. Rather, the question is if you should use an internal mentor or an external coach.

In small companies, the size and structure of the business often limits the scope and capacity for internal mentors. 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. In contrast, external coaching is often the domain of senior executives.

Internal mentorship
  • The major benefit of internal mentors is the cost factor, where 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 and done that”. They understand what it takes to rise to the next level. They are therefore 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.
  • The internal mentor is on site, on the scene and therefore in a better position to observe everyday engagement. Mentors can address the behaviour immediately rather than waiting for the next coaching session.
  • Building trust takes place quicker when an internal mentor is known to the employee.
  • The major disadvantage of internal mentorship is that the mentor is often too close to the situation 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. Often, they are growing and learning in the role themselves.
  • The internal mentor has day to day operational responsibilities that they need to set aside to assist someone else.
  • 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.
External coaching
  • The primary benefit of an external coach is the offer of an outside perspective of a third party. As a result, that 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 leads to greater objectivity and confidentiality.
  • External coaches coach for a living. It’s their primary area of expertise and they often have more experience in coaching. Coaches have 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 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.
  • Coaching sessions are structured and intermittent. Furthermore, the coach is often unable to observe the executive in action.
  • Suggestions from the coach might not fit the company culture

What works for you? And how can I help?

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

Leave a Reply