When is the Right Time to Start Coaching and Mentoring Managers?

by Pamela McElvane

Everyone is concerned about ensuring they receive every opportunity available to allow them to develop within their organizations. Is there a specific time when one should have the opportunity to engage in coaching and mentoring early in their career?  Absolutely, there is. It is, however, critical to understand the primary difference between training and coaching versus mentoring and development.  Training and coaching is a critical success factors that should begin in the manager’s current role, while mentoring and development is the critical success factors that should occur in their future role.

Our research results clearly acknowledge that 98% of our 50 out front companies get that, in the on-boarding process, training and coaching occurs early in a manager’s career.  However, only 21% of our companies provide immediate coaching to junior managers, while 35% provide immediate coaching and mentoring to their senior management. Is this because companies are clear that the more senior you are you have a stronger demonstrated track record and thus your value is more, so contributions are readily identified, and potential is obvious?

Is there anything fair about this process? Well, actually, there is. It’s necessary for managers to receive training and coaching early to ensure current roles success.  Once performance has been demonstrated, then potential is recognized.  Ensuring these things occur will prevent lost time which equates to lost talent.   Coaching should be designed to support developing managers to identify potential derailers and/or barriers as well as how to handle them. Coaching should be your access in learning best strategies to develop within the corporate culture; to understand all of the available resources and how to manage up effectively.

Once managers have proven that they are ready for the next level, it is appropriate for companies to seek the best type of mentoring for you. Our 2009 research shows that only 55% of the companies have formal mentoring programs. This means the others depend on informal networks and relationships. With diversity councils being so strong and influential within many companies, this has become a key strategy to expose junior managers to executives.

Let me briefly speak candidly to the senior manager opportunities for mentoring and sponsoring. As mentioned earlier, 35% of our companies immediately engage their senior level executives in mentoring. But let us be clear; if the opportunities for exposure and stretch assignments aren’t available, this means very little. Typically, this level receives peer-to-peer mentoring; and c-suite ownership for sponsoring. We know people of color really need to have intentional strategies to ensure they have access to future key assignments and exposure to areas such as board leadership and development.

With all of this said, regardless of the level of management you are in, you and only you have to take responsibility of ensuring your development is on track. Don’t be afraid to have the conversations with your leadership to understand how the coaching and mentoring process is managed within your organization. Executives must take time to STOP and consider their next assignments and have the specific conversation on what that assignment with their leadership looks like.

Pamela McElvane is the founder and CEO of Diversity MBA and the author of The SkiNy on Diversity Recruiting

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Pamela McElvane
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