Internal Mentoring or External Coaching?

December 23, 2014

by Beverly Flaxington

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Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

We are considering two methods for training our younger team members: using internal senior staff mentors or hiring an external coach. We are divided down the middle in terms of preference. Which do you think is best?

Jay S.

Dear Jay,

It’s great that you are looking for ways to train, mentor and coach your staff. There are benefits to both approaches you mention but, in my experience, a combination works best. The most successful efforts I’ve seen have included internal mentors working with external support. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Objectivity is important. An outsider can sometimes see things that internal people may not. In addition, those looking to learn will sometimes perceive a qualified outsider as more knowledgeable and credible.
  2. Internal staff can be more hands-on and work with the younger team on a day-to-day basis. They are able to offer consistency and continuity.
  3. Both sides can hold the learners accountable. If the internal mentors and external trainers can establish a strong communication, it’s easier and more effective for accountability. It’s a two-pronged approach.
  4. Sometimes the internal mentors can learn from the outside coaches and then reinforce the learning. These senior staff members may also benefit from new ideas and an outsider’s perspective on their job.
  5. The younger staff may see their training as an investment and commitment of both time (internal mentors) and money (external coaches). This may make them more enthusiastic and engaged during the process, too.

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