Mentoring with E-Learning (Q/A)

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A lot of people think coaching is the same as mentoring, and that by having coaching in their learning system or buying a coaching platform will suffice for their employees. What if though, they are missing the bigger picture? What if they are unaware that they are two different modalities, with one truly empowering employee development more so than the other?

After reading the “Art of Mentoring by Dr. Ravishankar Gundlapalli, the founder of MentorCloud,I reached out to see if he was open to some questions around mentoring and employee, customer and even student development.

Response(s) have been slightly edited for clarity and length.

The format is Q/A, with my question in italics and bolded.

Q: Can you explain the difference between “Coaching” and “People Development powered by Mentoring”?

A: Tapping into an employee’s genius is Coaching. Tapping into a leader’s wisdom is Mentoring. Mentoring is catalyzing human-to-human transfer of wisdom, from experts and senior leaders to other employees who need that wisdom to develop their skills, become productive at work and also grow personally.

To be a coach requires extensive training and certification as not everyone has the deep skills to extract the genius of the other individual. Within an organization, anyone with experience can be a mentor as they are merely tapping into what they already know. With simple training on mentor best practices, any senior leader and expert can be molded into a great mentor.

Q: What do you say to people who are selecting a coaching platform and think it aligns as a better use case, compared to mentoring? What will their employees be missing in the short term and long-term for their development?

A: When companies buy coaching platforms, they are looking for external coaches to help unleash the genius of their employees.

But when employees lack certain contextual skills, how to close deals, how to innovate, how to have empathy, how to manage teams, coaching doesn’t help. Someone who has this wisdom in the context of the organization needs to be tapped into for sharing that wisdom with the rest of the organization.

Let’s say I am a big fan of mentoring but I can’t see the use case for my employees, beyond someone helping someone else at my company.  Or I like mentoring, but for my employees what they have today is sufficient.  Why would either of these use cases be erroneous, when it comes to people development powered by mentoring?

Employees getting help and wisdom from senior leaders is not a small thing. It is fundamental to productivity, skills development, creating a sense of belonging, strengthening your human fabric and providing opportunities for your employees to grow.

If someone doesn’t see the value of human-to-human learning as a way to develop their people, then we should just move on. This is like someone questioning why they should exercise and why eating moderately is not enough?

People development with the help of your own people is the smartest and cost-effective way. You don’t need to hire expensive external coaches. You don’t need to send your people to expensive training seminars. Just tap into the gold you already have, and let that gold be better utilized. That gold is ‘collective wisdom’ of your experts.

Q: Do you believe that mentoring is limited only to employees?  Can it be for say students at a university or customers of a client or even members of an association?

A: Absolutely yes. Mentoring by definition is transfer of wisdom.

So, wisdom of corporate professionals will be super valuable to students getting ready for their careers; wisdom of serial entrepreneurs will be super valuable to first-time entrepreneurs; experience of senior members within an association will be super valuable to other new members.

Q: Has there been any research done that shows that mentoring will do or does a better job at people development within a company or organization? 

A: Yes. I recommend reading this datasheet on mentoring (from National Mentoring Day).

Mentoring is a human-to-human relationship. People within organizations as humans have a lot to offer.

LMS, LXPs and Learning Platforms focus on content. But the real applicability of that content to produce quick and measurable results happens when that content is matched with the context of the organization.

Q: As an expert, what are the three most common misconceptions around mentoring, that you have come across?

1 – It cannot be scaled with technology (this is exactly what was said about most things in life e.g. dating, buying books online, renting spaces)

2. It takes a lot of time

Anything if not done well takes time, like trying to cut a vegetable with a blunt knife. When you let people see the humanistic aspect of mentoring that it is nothing but sharing what you know with a sense of care, then all boundaries vanish.

3. There is no ROI

When your people are sharing and learning from each other, magic happens in terms of productivity, innovation, engagement, happiness and collaboration. Just like a fan helps to direct a volume of air that is already available, a well-designed mentoring program directs the human-to-human power towards measurable business outcomes.

Q: Finally, what is your opinion on where the market will go with platforms that tap into people development by leveraging mentoring in a way that is a necessity rather than a “just have”? 

Imagine Slack on Steroids where people that need to connect and share wisdom get connected and get the work done.

Bottom Line

Due to upcoming travels to the UK and Denmark there will be no blog post next week or the week thereafter. The next blog post thus will be July 11th.

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