Coaching, Mentoring and management learning sets are the belt and braces of leadership development, which a manager uses is a matter of personal preference, opportunity and local circumstances. In this case the organisation decided coaching was required and mentoring was optional.
As director of Community Services I took the lead for management development within a Directorate of approximately 500 managers. The previous management development programme was based on a very small number of managers undertaking an MBE each year. This budget was instead used to buy sessions with two management consultants and over a three year period to provide executive coaching, support the introduction of management mentoring and facilitate some management learning sets.
Offering all managers leadership training was part of a systematic approach to management development. Extending executive coaching to the wider management group was desirable. Installing a formal mentoring scheme open to all was a beaurocratic challenge. Running management learning sets co facilitated by senior managers was ambitious.
Executive coaching proved very popular with participants but logistical and financially limitations restricted its extension to the wider management group. Some senior managers were reluctant to take on a mentoring role and not all were suitable. Having a senior manager as a mentor was seen as a status symbol. Mentors and mentees had very different views on the type of structure to support mentoring. Mentors wanted things kept relatively informal, mentees wanted detailed guidance on what they could expect and a sophisticated matching system.
Both executive coaching and mentoring can be judged to have been a success by the positive feedback from participants and evidence from staff surveys, workshops and in house conferences which indicated staff had more confidence in senior management. Senior managers reported growing confidence in middle and first line managers.
However our experience also highlights the difficulty of sustaining a large scale management development programme due to management turnover, the lack of funds to extend coaching to middle and first line managers and the reluctance and unsuitability of some senior managers to be mentors.