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Mentor Coaching: The Dance of Grace and Mercy

An interview with Jackie Browning, PCC, and Carolyn Owens, PCC, who we welcome to the Certified Mentor Coaches roster for inviteCHANGE this month.

In this interview, Jackie and Carolyn note the benefits of receiving Mentor Coaching, becoming a Certified Mentor Coach, and the difference between Mentor Coaching and Coaching Supervision.

Interviewer: Share with our readers what you now appreciate about being a mentor coach, having earned the certification that inspires you to join the inviteCHANGE team in this role.

People often don't understand mentor coaching. They think, "I don't need to know all that." Yet, coaches wonder, "Why aren't I getting new clients?", "Why aren't my clients reaching their goals?", "I have worked on developing certain skills. Why can't I connect the dots?"

Mentor coaching offers coaches the power of a partnership for personal and professional development. It reinvigorates a person's sense of self. Mentor coaching is a process that allows the coach-client to say, "show me-me," and experience growth using observation, stories, clarifying skills, and engaging in a natural, coach-as-client-directed focus. The mentor coaching process, as offered by inviteCHANGE Certified Mentor Coaches, combines experiences, insight, and intentional wisdom from the mentor coach to help show each coach-client who they are and where they can go as a coach confidently competent.

"Like cooking or baking, when someone tastes food, it's easy to tell if there's too much or not enough salt. Some spices and herbs are more subtle. That's what mentor coaching does. It brings out the flavor of the conversation. It enhances flavor by bringing to light what a coach-client may have missed. When we're listening to what the person is saying, what we miss is subtle. Maybe if we had just a little bit more of this or more of that, it would enhance the flavor of the conversation. Mentor coaching tends to look at subtle things. Listening to what wasn't said inspires and creates great awareness. As in cooking, it enhances the flavor of the coach client's coaching abilities."

Mentor coaching provides a method for coaches-as-clients to connect the dots between their original coach education and their practice of coaching with their clients. It's a method for people to pick up what they need when they need it, connecting the dots internally and saying to themselves, "I do know this," that is self-trust. Coach-clients learn to use judgment to discern what's occurring in their coaching conversations instead of being self-judgmental. They learn to witness their dance with clients. Witnessing what motivates the learning is a skill to build, and each coach-client has a unique view and brings different strengths. Sometimes the client leads, and sometimes the coach leads.

We are not telling someone what to do because coach-clients create their process, how they work, or serve as a coach themselves. Each coach is unique and different, just as every human pattern is different. There's something unique to each of us. That means mentor coaching is listening for the subtleties. Not from what's in our head, but what's in our hearts and what we're feeling, intuiting, and sensing. Grace and mercy come in when we create that space for a deeper connection with what the coach-client notices and the willingness to be vulnerable, not predict the outcome, and let the coach-client get "feed-forward" awareness of what they need to develop.

Coaches give so much to their clients. Mentor coaching can assist coaches with taking care of themselves, strengthening their skills, and the ability to be vulnerable. They develop themselves, so they don't feel robotic or lose connection with their clients. "Having a military background, vulnerability can be viewed as a dirty word. That was one of my biggest challenges as a coach, to allow myself to be authentic and vulnerable. Being a mentor coach allows me to create a space where we, the coach-client and I, can be authentic and vulnerable. For some people, it's the first time being in a psychologically safe place that allows them to do that."

Interviewer: What would you ask readers to think about internally and how to use their curiosity when selecting a mentor coach?

Many say they think of mentor coaching as something they don't need because their ego says it's too vulnerable to be exposed. As mentor coaches, we help others see there's more than one way. That's why a mindset of grace and mercy is so helpful. When we connect with a coach-client, we give ourselves the grace to just say, "I know what I don't know, and I don't know what's going to come up or what the outcome will be. If I partner in knowing and accepting that, the coach-client and I will see together what comes out. That is the mercy piece when we get into that relationship." This mindset for development helps us get away from evaluating performance.

Grace is also being able to receive. "We don't like looking in the mirror. We don't like that self-reflection that will occur. But in doing so, we are going to learn. We are going to develop, so don't be afraid to go there, to step into that space. We must take care of ourselves as coaches, and mentor coaching allows coach-clients to take care of themselves for growth."

Don't necessarily select the person who's exactly like you. You know there are certain connections that we do have. But if that person is so much like you, from the same area, both single parents, and has many commonalities, it is easy to avoid accomplishing your goal. It can block the process, obscuring your viewpoint and stall your professional and personal development. We all have different wisdom from our life experiences, so seek to work with the best person who can assist you with where you are right now and where you want to go

One of the things we value about the inviteCHANGE coaching education programs is the policy to shift mentor coaches, so coach-clients don't all work with just one person. Each mentor coach has strengths that a coach-client can learn from to build their way of working with different people. They get access to see and learn from those various aspects and approaches.

Coach-clients benefit from seeing or hearing different voices. When starting the journey, a person might want to work with someone that looks like them just because it would make them a little bit more comfortable in the mentor coaching space, and that's okay. "But do not be afraid to become uncomfortable going beyond that space. Through this process, shifting to a different mentor coach, and seeing things from a different lens, you can and will continue to grow." That said, different mentor coaches share their feed-forward information, observations, and stories to enhance, clarify ICF competencies and connect the dots for coach-clients.

When I started coaching, other coaches always said, "You need to become a master coach," but not in terms of how ICF defines a master coach. It was more of a performance as if you were putting on a show for your clients. I didn't like that, although, at the time, I didn't fully understand why. There are a variety of coach training programs, and each one is unique and teaches people differently. However, I've experienced and heard the horror stories of judgmental mentor coaches and coaches who focus on themselves rather than on developing skills, accomplishing goals, and genuine growth.

What we experienced and learned when becoming certified mentor coaches through inviteCHANGE has allowed us to dance to the rhythm of what it truly means to be a coach. We dance with grace and mercy so we, as coaches and mentors, can empower coach-clients to dance along with us. Sometimes we will lead, and sometimes you will lead. That truly is the power of inviteCHANGE mentoring coaching.

Interviewer: Thank you, Carolyn, and Jackie, for sharing your personal stories and perspective. We are thrilled to welcome you to the inviteCHANGE team of mentor coaches. Our coaching education participants worldwide will benefit from your wisdom and presence across their lifelong learning journey as professional coaches.

Ready to begin your Mentor Coaching journey? Start here and use your judgment to discern if the inviteCHANGE experience is right for you. Whether you select a Mentor Coach for your own development, or you decide to join the next cohort of Certification for Mentor Coaching - be curious and intentional about the path you choose.

Carolyn Owens, PCC and Jackie Browning, PCC

Carolyn Owens, PCC

Odenton, MD

Certified Career Strategist, Leadership, Executive and Life Coach Carolyn R. Owens is an internationally recognized, trainer, career strategist, leadership, and executive coach. With 3000+ hours of coaching experience, she is a leading authority on leadership and professional and personal development and has worked with and trained top leaders across the globe. She works with her clients to awaken their self-awareness so they can achieve greater communication, interaction and engagement with their customers, clients, and teams as well as in their personal relationships.

Jackie Browning, PCC

Allen Park, MI

Jackie has worked for over 35 years with hundreds of leaders, entrepreneurs, and companies in business, healthcare, and manufacturing in the Human Resource space of Employee Relations, Performance Management, and Succession Planning & Development.