Managers who understand how to conduct useful management, coaching, and mentoring conversations can address the needs of their employees quickly and effectively.
The challenge is knowing when each conversation is most appropriate. Without clear distinctions it is easy for these conversations to blend together and overlap. And once that happens, managers may find themselves attempting to play all three roles—manager, coach, and mentor— simultaneously, and that rarely (if ever) turns out well.
Here are the distinctions that can help leaders and managers identify the best conversation to use based on the questions people ask.
The Management Conversation—for questions about what the job is, how to do it, and how to produce the best results. The management conversation is most appropriate when the goal or task is clear and when manager and direct report have shared responsibility for results. Management conversations solve problems and produce results, with and through others, that benefit the organization.
The Coaching Conversation—for questions about things that are affecting a direct report but aren’t necessarily related to their job or their performance. The coaching conversation works best for creating clarity when goals are not crystal clear. It is also used when the direct report has higher interest than the manager in the outcome or when the manager does not have enough expertise to provide optimal benefit to the employee. Coaching conversations promote discovery, generate insights, and clarify purposeful action for the employee in ways that may or may not benefit the organization.
The Mentoring Conversation—for questions about professional development and career support. The mentoring conversation is used when a mentee—whether or not they are a direct report—is seeking advice and willing to assume responsibility for a mentor/mentee relationship. The mentor must have suitable experience and useful advice to provide about the company or industry. The mentor also must be willing to invest time and energy in ways that go above and beyond the requirements of their regular job. Mentoring conversations enable the sharing of expertise based on personal experience, which may or may not benefit the organization.
Being all things to all people is impossible. The manager who knows exactly where they are and what role they are playing at any given moment will be able to serve their people best.
In upcoming posts, I’ll share ways to be more effective with each of these conversations. For now, consider these three distinctions. What types of conversations are you and your leaders most often engaging in? Are you identifying different outcomes—or are you trying to be everything to everyone?
About the Author
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is the co-founder of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 150 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.