Mentoring, Coaching, Advocacy – Three Lenses to Achieve 20/20 Career Vision Mentoring, Coaching, Advocacy
In my previous post, I unpacked the metaphor of the Career Growth Mountain. In this article, we’ll go a little deeper into the concept by examining the three lenses used throughout the Mountain trek. These lenses — mentoring, coaching, and advocacy—ignite the flames of success and achievement.
These three key growth lenses often get confused because they have a lot in common. They are all about maximizing people’s potential, but they each do it from a different perspective.
No matter which lens we look through, knowledge and opportunity always get transferred down from those with more experience and expertise. In return, feedback and perspective travel upwards. But that doesn’t always mean mentors must be higher up the Mountain than we are. Or that advocates can’t be at the same level beside you.
Lens One: Mentoring
First, mentoring is an unequal power relationship between two individuals—one with significant domain experience and the other a learner, ready to take in new information. It is a misnomer that mentors need to be older than us.
I am being mentored right now by a twenty-three-year-old on TikTok. A Mentor is simply someone who has more experience than someone else in a particular area of the Growth Mountain that we want to learn how to navigate. It’s an imbalanced relationship where the power is truly in the person who has the knowledge.
As the Mentor shares stories, experiences, and best practices, the Mentee gains insights from someone who has been there, and done that. The Mentor often gives advice or even flat out tells someone what they think should be done and why.
But sometimes leadership
mentoring can miss the mark, like when what a Mentor says doesn’t land well. For example, a Black woman in her late twenties may not relate to the older, White male Mentor telling her what he would do.
Truth be told, sometimes I listen to Mentors, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes their stories bring incredible insight and value, and sometimes they are outdated (if I happen to know, for example, that the bears they are cautioning me about actually no longer live in that cave by the waterfall.). This is where Coaches can give a fresh and needed perspective – crucial to making any career vision a reality.
Lens Two: Coaching
Unlike mentoring, coaching is an equal-power relationship. Coaches don’t tell someone what to do. Instead, they ask thoughtful questions that empower the Coachee to generate their own solutions.
Coaching is about creating the capacity inside other human beings to think through their own issues critically. Coaches don’t simply give advice or presume to have the answers. We are not problem solvers. We simply offer support, accountability, and companion people on their way.
The truth is (and I realize I am biased here as a Coach), that everybody’s best solution always comes from themselves. No one knows and understands a challenge or unique situation like an individual. But we all struggle with (now, more than ever) finding the space to work through challenges.
The PEER Group Coaching experience takes this concept to the next level by not relying on the Group Coach to be the only Coach in the room. Instead, it teaches people how to become Coaches, not only for others but also for themselves, and provides a safe space to practice the coaching skills they can then take back to their little enclave on their Growth Mountain.
It intentionally creates an environment that encourages practicing vulnerability, building relationships, and developing the transferable coaching skills they can immediately put into play in all kinds of places and spaces—both at work and at home.
Lens Three: Advocacy
Yet that is still not enough. There needs to be a third lens of advocacy. Advocates, like Mentors, also have an unequal power relationship. The difference is what’s transferred from the Mentor to the Mentee is knowledge. What’s transferred from an Advocate to the person they are sponsoring is opportunity.
People need Advocates to bring up their names when they themselves are not in the room. Advocates are the folks who bring opportunities to others, who know what they’re good at and, just as importantly, where they want to go next on their Growth Mountain. Advocates speak up on another person’s behalf.
When I coach high-potential managers inside the Mid-Career Woods with large organizations, I advise them that their best Advocate is likely someone two levels above them in that rocky, craggy area on the Mountain in their organization. The best Advocate needs to be at a higher level of visibility to see opportunities they cannot see from deep within the folds of the forest, like the dangers from a coming avalanche.
Mentors and Coaches want to see people succeed. We mentor or coach because we want to give back after someone has done that for us. It feels good to mentor other people. I genuinely do not look for my Mentees to give anything back to me. I pour into them because I feel good (and competent, to be honest) at the end of a leadership mentoring session.
Advocates are similar but also very different. There is an unspoken quid pro quo, in fact. Every Advocate is looking for two specific things from the relationship. If they are not met, the relationship will usually not continue.
The first is pretty obvious: if the recipient does not deliver, the Advocate will not continue to advocate for them. If I am lending my name and credibility on someone’s behalf, I expect them to walk in and kick butt. The second thing is what often gets missed. Advocates are looking for valuable feedback and perspective to better achieve their strategic goals.
These three lenses—Mentoring, Coaching, and Advocacy—each play a key role within the PEER Group Coaching Framework. Participants can learn how to leverage each of these roles outside of the cohort to achieve their goals.
They can also look to their peers for mentorship—those with the experience and wisdom from a different area of the Mountain yet within the same field or demographic. When they share a challenge and ask for help from a peer mentoring standpoint, they share with people they trust will offer the advice they need. They then can also benefit from peer advocates who share their successes with a network outside of their own.
But Mentorship and Advocacy can only go so far. That is where Coaches come in. The lens of coaching in the PEER Framework brings together people from the same level on the Mountain, so the entire group becomes coaches for one another. We always involve 1:1 Coaching in the Framework as we teach and equip everyone to be a coach because often, the best coaches who empathize the most are peers who are at or near the same spot on the desired Growth Mountain.
Mentorship, Coaching, Advocacy—when they all work in harmony, it’s beautiful, but first, it is important to know how to bring them all together.