Knowledge is not the same as skills – how you use knowledge is the skill
I have been having a lot of discussions lately with people calling themselves a coach and/or mentors about what they see is the difference between coaching and mentoring, and the skills of their clients.
The one thing missing from all but one of these conversations was the topic of formal skills recognition. To be fair, it should not be up to coaches and mentors to diagnose skills. Assessing competency is what trainers do, but this only highlights the value that should be placed on training. None can be effective without the others.
Sure, they spoke about working with people’s strengths, but a brick wall has strengths, and if you are looking for something solid to bang your head up against, that’s wonderful. However, the skill is knowing why the wall is there, do you need to climb it, can you walk around it, and what happens if you do bang your head against it.
Coaches and mentors often make the mistake of assuming people have the skills because of what they do. However, the good coaches and mentors ask the right question, in the right way, and can very quickly identify if you have a skills gap in what they do.
I will hear coaches, and more often mentors saying, “but their business owners, they ‘should’ know that!”. Yes, they “should”, but do they? Who is going to admit to someone that they are trying to impress that they don’t have the skills?
Tricks of the skills trade
I teach to my international students is leaders never say to team members “what training would you like?” You say “how can I make your job easier?”. Team members are happy to tell you how an extra person with XYZ skills would make their job easier, or new equipment to buy, or what they feel confident they could do better, All of which indicates opportunities to develop their own skills.
The next question is “so if I could get someone/something in, would you also want to learn from them (or how to use it)? You just don’t tell the team member that they are going to learn from a trainer, as trainers have traditionally been used to correct poor performance in organisations. However, and great acceptance of emotional intelligence at work is correcting that.
The equivalent of this in skills identification from mentors would be “what would you like to do to grow your sales?”, or “what is it that you don’t have enough time to do?”.
Mentors often say they knock back potential clients because the clients “can’t afford me”, or “they’re not ready for my program”. Essentially, consultants know if you don’t have the skills to do what the consultant does. They know what you don’t know. If a mentor takes you on, the mentor’s reputation is tied to your success, so they would see you have “unconscious competence” in certain core skills.
You don’t go to a mentor to get training. you go to a mentor to be the best you can be now, so your success is based on the skills you have now.
The first thing most business “scale up” mentoring programs work on is the business owners “mindset”. Using emotional intelligence, here are 5 cues I look for as indicators that people in business have skills in specific areas.
Skills Cues To Look Out For
1. Just tell me what I have to do!
Usually, an indicator that a person knows they have options, so have done some form of training or workshops. Just can’t seem to get one that works for them. You never have to do anything, what they need to do is decide, and are running out of time, so the quick fix is to get in a mentor. A mentor would make the decision on what to do for the business owner based on what the mentor would do if the mentor were in the business owner’s situations. A coach would find out the business owners “why” to help the business owner work out what to do, usually to overcome “analysis Paralysis”.
2. I know what I’m doing!
You are not in the business of what you do; you are in business to market what you do. This would indicate someone has skills, but not in the area they need. It is more of an ego thing, and they may have worked hard to get where they are. However, it has more to do with a “positivity bias”. They get negative feedback, they just don’t think it is relevant to them. Ask them what they love doing, and what they don’t like doing.
People have lower expectations of others completing tasks if they don’t like doing them. And also, more willing to accept advice on how it can be done easier. If anyone loves doing something, that person has a higher interest in the area so likely to be better than average at it. Pick your battles, build trust, and the last thing they want to hear is they need training. Don’t forget, marketing is classed as a technical trade under the formal qualification framework. Yet everyone thinks they can be a marketer, just like people say everyone thinks they can be a coach.
3. I can’t get anyone to help me!
This may be a sign of frustration. They see the things they are asking people to do as so simple. They can’t understand why people can’t do it as well as them. It is usually because they have high “unconscious competence”. It is so easy to them that they don’t recognise that they are highly skilled in this area. Many mentors fall into this, and it is why mentors don’t make great trainers. It’s a different skill set. You can know less than nothing! If you think you know nothing, that is still something. You may actually (and likely do) know more than the person that says “I know what I’m doing”.
4. Do I need to do a qualification?
generally, I find people have had a lot of advice and opinions as to what they are doing wrong. Maybe people have just pointed out what they think is wrong because that person has a solution for it? It comes down to trust. Some people think if they are no help, people will go away (separation sensitive). Referring people to the right help is how you get them to come back to you. People wouldn’t ask if they didn’t think they have skills. It is more likely the person is looking for a skills assessment against formal industry criteria, not just an “experts” opinion.
5. They are the last person in the room to speak
the skills these people have is “listening” and specialise in “discovery learn”. Sinek will tell you this is a leadership skill too, as leaders speak last. It is also an essential skill for networking and sales. Extroverts make up only 40% of the population, but take up about 80% of the airtime. Introverts only need 20% of the time to communicate what to do. They have already run it past selection criteria in their head. Modern leaders only speak 30% of the time; this gets extroverted leaders to listen first. Essentially gives introverted leaders a 50% increase in their airtime to make a sales pitch for ideas. Usually, more than an introvert would need, or are used to, making introverted leaders even more effective.