How does Coaching and Mentoring drive performance?

Coaching and mentoring, whether delivered by internal coaches, line managers or external partners, can have a lasting, positive impact on an organisation.

But what does an effective organisation look like?*

1. High Performance – achieving directly measurable business results

2. Organisational health - “the ability of your organisation to align, execute, and renew itself faster than your competitors… organisational health is about adapting to the present and shaping the future faster and better than the competition… Healthy organisations don’t merely learn to adjust themselves to their current context or to challenges that lie just ahead; they create a capacity to learn and keep changing over time”

*McKinsey Quarterly, June 2011 “Organisational Health – The Ultimate Competitive Advantage” – Scott Keller and Colin Price

Even in high performing organisations, there’s sometimes tension between Performance and Health.  Sometimes it’s important to invest for the future at the expense of today – sacrificing short-term results to invest in the business for the longer term.  At other times it’s necessary to focus on short-term performance at the expense of longer-term organisational health, like when overcoming a crisis or when preparing for an IPO.

Where possible, organisations need to act in ways that build BOTH performance and health.  Sweating the assets too hard for too long might help this quarter’s results but can cause you problems later.  But losing your competitive edge by focusing on projects that build Health won’t work either.

It’s easy to see how coaching and mentoring can help build health – they often focus on thinking about the long-term, achieving potential and managing change.

But business leaders don’t always see the link between coaching and mentoring and performance.  When working in a fast-moving environment, held to account for short-term results, they might be forgiven for viewing coaching and mentoring as a ‘nice to have’. 

Leaders often feel that it takes too long to have an impact, requiring more patience on the part of line managers and coachees than is practical.  As leaders we can sometimes be gripped by the urge to bark “Just do it!” at individuals and teams who taking time to achieve results.  And while we know that a coaching approach might help, we feel we don’t have the time or patience to coach. 

But when done well, coaching and mentoring are drivers of short-term performance as well as organisational health.  Coaching can help individuals and teams to come up with solutions that were there all along but which were not obvious – and which need a different way of doing things.  Where the problem is complex and where different groups of people need to come together to make things happen, coaching and mentoring for key members of the team can keep projects on time and to budget – whilst building capability in the team at the same time. 

To get the best from coaching and mentoring, senior leaders need to use them as a strategic enabler – with clear goals linked to overall business objectives.  This approach enables leaders at the top of the organisation bring people with them in executing strategy and – more often than not – building future capability.