In Blogs 19 and 20 I wrote about developmental alliance, a term I had introduced in 1992 (Hay, 1992) and used three years later in the sub-title of a book about mentoring (Hay, 1995), when I also provided a diagram that contrasted aspects of whether the intervention was led by the needs of the person or the organisation, and whether it took place over a short or longer term.
I am currently writing a second edition of the 1995 book, in which I am extending the original focus on transformational mentoring to apply also to developmental coaching – in line with my emphasis on development versus cure, and health versus pathology.
The following is an extract of what I expect to publish later this year, based on the following diagram of how we might compare and position different practices.
I am considering different approaches on two axes: whether the individual’s frame of reference takes precedence or the organisational or cultural norms are more important; and whether the overall contract is about creating resources for the individual or helping them to deal with problems.
This provides four ‘boxes’ although obviously an individual and/or a practitioner may spread across them in their own unique ways. If that happens, I would urge the practitioner to ensure that their contracting with the client, otherwise known as the coachee or mentee, is clear about what is being offered and expected. I take it for granted that any practitioner, whether volunteer or professional, would not be offering something outside their own area of competence, and they would take into consideration the potential problems that might arise from particular combinations of dual relationships (such as psychotherapist and mentor, or manager and coach).
In terms of the four options, I see the following distinctions.
Developmental coach/mentoring - by this I mean a mentor or coach who is working with an individual to help them work out what they want to do in the future. Even though this may be a three or multi-party contract that includes an organisation and perhaps a line manager, I would expect that the coach/mentor has a contract which makes it clear that they are helping to develop the individual rather than encouraging them to fit whatever the future needs of the organisation might be. Sensible managers have no problem with such a contract because they realise that their organisation will be better off if an unhappy or unchallenged employee leaves to fulfil their potential elsewhere rather than staying to do work for which they have no enthusiasm and is likely therefore to be done to a standard that is only just good enough.
I contrast this with traditional coach/mentoring, where the expectation is that the coach/mentor has appropriate expertise and is engaged in passing on that expertise to the individual. For coaching, this normally means that there are particular activities that are the subject of the coaching; for mentoring it tends to be more about producing a clone of the mentor so that the mentee will function in ways that fit the organisational norms. This may well be justified from the point of view of the organisation expecting employees to provide the work they are being paid to do. However, it may also result in a lack of innovation when those being coached or mentored opt to stay with whatever their coach/mentor regards as appropriate behaviour.
I regard both developmental and traditional coach/mentoring as being about creating resources within the coach/mentee. I do not refer to these as ‘new’ resources because they may already have them, such as when competencies used in different circumstances turn out to be highly useful within an organisation (for instance, running a home and family, or a volunteer association, may mean that the individual has considerable planning and organising skills that they have just not thought about using at work).
I contrast creating resources with dealing with problems. This may be a somewhat arbitrary separation because we will of course need to develop new or identify existing resources if we are going to deal with problems. However, what I am looking at here is the primary focus that is regarded as the reason for approaching the professional in the first place. Hence, someone engaging with the coach/mentor will be expecting that the outcomes will be about them being able to do things that they have not done before, whereas an approach to a psychotherapist or psychiatrist will usually be prompted by the fact that the individual’s problems are getting in the way of them living their life, or building relationships, or keeping a job, and so on.
Having approached a professional for psychotherapy or psychiatry, I see that what is offered in psychotherapy tends to be about helping the person develop their own identity, through various processes of prompting them to get in touch with the psychodynamics that are leading to the problem thoughts, feelings or behaviours. As a transactional analyst and neuro-linguistic programmer, I will tend to do that through helping them understand how they developed their childhood survival strategies and are still running these even though they are no longer appropriate, although I do recognise that there are other psychotherapeutic approaches that will be just as effective.
In terms of psychiatry, I also realise that many psychiatrists will also be providing forms of psychotherapy. However, if I consider the role in a more literal way, the role of a psychiatrist is to diagnose how people are functioning outside the norms of society and then to provide them with medication that will bring them back into balance. Again, I am aware that many psychiatrists will go beyond this but I also keep in mind that the American Psychiatric Association (2013) publish the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which works on the basis of categorising individuals by how many indicators there are of them not being ‘normal’. The contents of this change from time to time in line with cultural norms and the expectations of psychiatrists – many years ago it included a mental diagnosis of slaves who thought that they should be free.
Any feedback on what I have written here is welcomed – especially before the second edition of the book goes to print!
American Psychiatric Association (2013) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association
Hay, Julie (1992) Developmental Alliances can Replace Mentors The Mentor 1:8 10
Hay, Julie (1995) Transformational Mentoring: Creating Developmental Alliances for Changing Organizational Cultures Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill
© 2018 Julie Hay
Julie is a fan of open access publishing so feel free to reproduce any of these blogs as long as you still attribute it to her.