Friday 24 September 2021

Supervising Mentors

I have been asked by the EMCC UK to facilitate their first Let's Talk session for mentors on International Mentoring Day (which, as I'm sure you know, is 27 October). The session is to be a mix of CPD and supervision, which has set me thinking about the differences (if any) between supervision for coaches and for mentors.

I am more used to supervising coaches than mentors, so it seemed important to give this some serious thought, to ensure the session is as valuable as it can be.  Mentoring and coaching, though closely related, are different in a number of ways, and having been involved in training both mentors and coaches, I am fairly clear about the differences.

Reflecting on this with colleagues, I have concluded that the main functions of supervision, the formative, normative and restorative (which I have summarised here), all apply equally in the context of mentoring. Likewise, the different types of conversations that might be appropriate, characterised by the rooms in Hewson and Carroll's Coaching House, are also relevant (I have blogged about these previously, here).

So I was beginning to wonder if there was any difference at all in the supervision of mentors as opposed to coaches. But there was something niggling at the back of my mind, and it was another colleague who helped me to articulate it. It was to do with context. 

In broad terms, coaches are probably more likely to have more training, and more of a professional identity as coaches, than mentors do. Mentors are typically doing the mentoring alongside other roles, often as a favour; and whilst they may have had some mentoring training, it may well be less than coaches. In the coaching profession, supervision is widely discussed; and most coaches are aware that having supervision is best practice, even if they don't actually avail themselves of it. Whereas I think it is much more likely that mentors may not be aware of supervision and its role.  And of course, in mentoring there are often power issues at play in different ways than in coaching: a mentor is frequently a senior member of the organisation in which the mentee is more junior, and clearly there are supervisory questions arising from that.

So I concluded that there is more context-setting that may be appropriate for mentors, with regard to supervision, and that there are some specific issues, for example in the normative area (contracting etc) that may need particular attention in the supervision of mentors.

And then, checking my assumptions with the EMCC, I learned that in this particular context, the mentors I'll be working with are also all coaches, so some of these considerations may not apply after all.

But nonetheless, it was interesting and useful to chase my thinking down here, and I am sure it will helpfully inform future work.

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