How to Be a Coaching and Mentoring Ninja

Posted 06.10.2015

One of the elements I love the most about our leadership development programs like Next Level Leadership® group coaching and Developing Leadership Presence is the peer coaching. In both of those programs, the participants are expected to pair up with a peer colleague and spend 20 minutes a week coaching each other.

That might sound complicated, but it’s not. What I want them to do is to take ten minutes each to ask their partner questions that get them off the dance floor and onto the balcony.  One of my favorite ways for them to do that is ask each other three questions:

  • What’s the most important meeting or conversation you’re going to have this week?
  • If that meeting is a wild, full-on success, what happens at the end?
  • How do you need to show up to make that full-on success likely?

The beauty of that coaching model is that they don’t have to know each other’s business to help each other. In fact, I prefer that they not work in the same function, because I want them to draw the insights out of each other, not just give each other advice.

Coaching is a brilliant way to go when you want to help someone develop and act on their own insights. Mentoring, on the other hand, is a great approach when you want to share experience and knowledge that can help the other person leap frog their learning curve. The most effective mentors know that they have to go beyond saying, “Here’s what I think you should do.” Instead, they talk about times when they faced situations similar to the protégé’s, how they thought through the situation, the approaches they tried, what worked and what didn’t and what they learned from all of that. The ninja level mentors then flip into coaching mode by asking things like,

  • What’s the same or different about your situation?
  • What have you tried so far?
  • What else could you try?
  • What are your next one or two steps?
  • How can I help?

So, if you know the distinctions, you can be both a coach and a mentor. I find myself toggling between those roles in my work. When you think about it, you probably do in yours as well. They’re not mutually exclusive roles; they’re complementary roles.

From either the giving or receiving end, what are the ninja level coaching or mentoring moves that work for you?