Which is more important for career advancement — Counseling, Mentoring and Coaching?

By Michael O. Cannon DLA Disposition Services

PRINT  |  E-MAIL

I’m going to oversimplify, but I’m good like that. A counselor helps you figure out why you are. A mentor helps you become more like them. A coach helps you become more like you.

Counselors help you when you’re struggling with an issue. It is a formal relationship which is predicated on an event or situation. Something happened or is happening (sometimes internally…a personal struggle) and you need somebody to help you get to the bottom of it. There are a number of people who can counsel you if you need it; many supervisors, medical professionals, family support personnel, and the clergy are common examples.

Mentors are senior people who you are in an informal relationship with focusing on your professional development. Your relationship is flexible and can morph over time. A mentor often has the ability to influence your career. Mentors tend to be senior people within your own organization with whom you have developed enough of a personal relationship that allows you to seek professional guidance from them from time to time.

Coaches partner with you to look at yourself; career, life, wellbeing, etc. and, in a thought-provoking and creative process help you set and meet some personal goals. A coach typically doesn’t have any direct influence on your career, however a good coach can certainly help you with your life and career. Coaches are specially trained to coach. There are several organizations you can contact and get a coach. And pay for the service.

So, do you need a counselor, a mentor or a coach? The answer for me is: all three. I have benefited from counseling, most recently after my last deployment. I’ve had, and still have, some senior leaders who are mentors and advise me on my professional development. Finally, I had the benefit of having an executive coach. Very recently, I finished a detailed and focused coaching term with a professional coach. Although my coach had no connection with DLA, I grew in ways that are helping me both professionally and personally here in DLA because of her coaching.

Coaching directly supports objectives in our DLA People and Culture Plan—it helps us develop leaders and sustain our people. DLA leadership realizes the benefits of coaching and now is training some of our own workforce to be professional coaches! Although our awesome coaches are not yet ready for clients, they will be very soon. We’ll have enough coaches trained and qualified by May of 2018.

More to follow, but keep your eyes and ears open…those coaches will be looking for clients. Expect a “call for clients” to go out in April or May from DLA Human Recourses (J1). If you’re interested in coaching, talk to your supervisor and discuss applying as soon as the notice is out. We’ll match the clients to coaches in May and you’ll be on your way.