The Shift to Coach Mentors

Ram Ramanathan  •  Feb 3, 2018  •  4 min read

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The Shift to Coach Mentors

The CHRO of a large global organization was talking to me about the leadership development needs of his senior management.

“I need coaches who can also mentor. I need coaches who have been there and done it.”

I was curious, “Why don’t you mentor your executives with other executives with more experience and expertise? Why seek a coach to mentor?”

The CHRO was a professionally trained coach, who also had a background in psychology. His answer was direct. “Senior leaders don’t have the time for psychological babble in exploration or whatever from those who do not even understand what the leaders are going through. These leaders have no patience for ontological, emotional, somatic and other fancy footwork coaching. Yes, they would like to discover their blind spots, and they need someone who they can trust, someone who has walked the path they are now walking. I am searching for coaches who have been CEOs to coach our CXOs and I can’t find any.”

Such an exchange has happened multiple times.

I recently met a US based coach agglomerator who was excited to know that I, as a coach, had a CEO leadership background. She was even more excited when I said I do mix mentoring with my coaching as long as the client asks for it and needs it.

“I am so relieved to hear this,” she said. “I am tired of being told that coaches cannot offer suggestions or advice, or that they cannot be responsible for outcome. More and more I have executives asking for coaches who can also mentor them based on their own leadership experience.”

Winds are changing.

Organizations as well as individuals want to see results, not hear theories on behavioral change. They seek executive coaches with leadership experience, not psychologist coaches trying not to get into therapy mode. They want to act and now.

Organizations as well as individuals want to see results, not hear theories on behavioral change.

At the same time, they realize that for executive leaders to own their solutions and act on them, those solutions need to come from within, not handed down by a mentor or consultant.

Enter the new tribe of coach mentors, executive leaders who have the professional skills of a coach. If you are one your future is indeed bright. You can follow ethics and seek permission from the client to switch hats from coach to mentor as the need arises.

If you plan to be in the profession of executive leadership coaching, here are a few observations to reflect on:

  • Do you speak the language and understand the culture of the industry of your client?
  • Have you walked a similar path of leadership to be able to empathize with the issues faced by the client?
  • Are you working only with the competency framework of coaching without the experience needed to support the client?

Honest answers to these questions can help you choose the niche you would be successful working in.

Statements such as ‘coaching need not be domain specific’ or ‘coach should be invisible’ are half-truths and platitudes that are misinterpreted.

A great coach would use past experience in work and coaching to expand that awareness to other domains and situations. Foundational experience as an executive leader creates the presence needed to engender trust and inspiration in a client leader.

A great coach would use past experience in work and coaching to expand that awareness to other domains and situations.

Yes, a great coach needs to be invisible and mindless; but a coach silent throughout a session can add no value. Invisibility is about the lack of ego, judgment and imposition of the coach’s values and agenda upon the client. The coach has to be an active partner dancing with the client, curiously and spontaneously.

Some credentialing organizations support mentoring with coaching. Learn from them.

Organizations are ripe for coaches with executive leadership experience in active line management to coach their leaders.

Become one!

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Ram Ramanathan


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.


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