The Dark Side of Mentoring and Coaching

With all the helpful, energizing, and success-boosting qualities provided by mentoring and coaching experiences, there is a “dark side.” No mentoring or coaching experience is completely positive or negative. Rather, these experiences live along a continuum between the ideally wonderful, helpful experience and the negative, unhelpful experience. 

If you want a high-quality mentoring or coaching experience or if you want to provide such for someone, keep in mind the character qualities and practice qualitiesof a great mentor or coach and beware the “dark side.” From the literature and my research, there are a number of “dark side” issues that can cripple the growth experience associated with mentoring and coaching if the service provider and client are not aware and working on personal and relational issues that may come as the proverbial ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

As you consider the following, keep in mind that the mentoring and coaching experiences in a corporate setting most often have distinctive differences in method and purpose as compared to mentoring and coaching outside the corporate setting. In corporate settings mentors are often assigned. Outside the corporate setting they can be chosen by the protégé or client. Some of the “dark side” issues may be more pronounced in a setting where the mentor or coach is assigned.

Some key “dark side” issues are:

  • Not every shingle is credible. In this day, you would be wise to check into the credentials of your mentor or coach. Be reminded that not every sharp, technically savvy, subject matter expert can be a truly helpful mentor or coach. In the same vein, be aware that anyone can hang out their shingle proclaiming them as a mentor and coach. Look for high levels of training and credentials indicating they are accountable to others, conduct an interview, and check references.
  • Unhelpful motives. An individual may provide mentoring or coaching in order to satisfy some need in their life versus devoting their whole heart to assist the client. We all have emotional/psychological baggage, picked up along the way in life. If we are to be really helpful to a protege or client it is essential that we are very clear about what this baggage is and how it shows up in relationships.  I am not sure that a person can work this out completely on their own. Be sure your mentor or coach has a mentor or coach of their own and it is even better if they have experienced some therapy. Otherwise, the mentor or coach may be found working out their issues on you.

I will explore more of these issues in coming posts. Interviewing your prospective mentor or coach and a trial period of mentoring or coaching can help you discover if the relationship works and hopefully identify any “dark side” issues that may be in play.

Of what “dark side” issues are you aware?

How do you avoid the “dark side” of mentoring or coaching?

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