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The Leadership Waltz: Mentoring Vs. Discipling Between Leaders and Followers
The job of a manager is both dynamic and daunting. A leader must choreograph the company’s vision, purpose, values, strategy, tactics and goals. The manager must also build a team through which he will implement the business model.
Leaders must influence followers by continuously adjusting about 90 material variables, which are confirmed in the 2006 article “An Integrative Definition of Leadership” by Dr. Bruce Winston and Dr. Kathleen Patterson. In addition, the manager must constantly organize the emphasis between these variables against the background of the competitive situation: (i) customers buy benchmark value, (ii) value is a function of price, (iii) price pressure in the market is relentless (iv) ) companies have more control over their costs than over prices, ( v) profitability depends on price and cost and (vi) profitability is a prerequisite for career opportunities for employees.
Effective managers practice something Middle Market Methods, a consulting firm, considers the R4: the right people with the right skills in the right positions at the right time. Especially when it comes to skills, this alchemy is a mixture of discipline and guidance. Teaching and coaching can be solid values. As such, a manager’s corporate legacy can institutionalize the disciplining and coaching process.
Family relationships between children, parents, and grandparents offer some insights into the organizing principles of discipline and guidance between leaders and followers. Grandparents and parents may share similar values. In addition, they may have similar motivations and aspirations towards the child. However, parenting and grandparenting tactics may differ.
Being a grandparent is like mentorship. Grandparents usually have less face-to-face time with the child. They may approach the child altruistically with influence. They can invite the child to learn in a non-directive or non-threatening way. Perhaps the child may be more receptive to the opening speeches of the grandparent because the issuing source is not a relatively authoritative parental figure. Grandparent guidance can lead to a child gaining perspective or developing wisdom. Successful grandparenting can prepare a child to analyze ambiguous situations and make mature choices.
Parenting is similar to disciplining. Parents usually have more face time with the child. Parents may want to indoctrinate the child. A parent’s teaching approach can include both positive and negative reinforcement. Parental discipline can lead to a child’s understanding of right and wrong. A desired outcome of parental discipline may be a child’s “good” Pavlovian response to situations beyond the parent’s field of view. Successful parental discipline can result in a child’s institutionalized values and character.
Homer’s Odyssey first introduced the word mentor and positioned the role as a trusted advisor. Chip Bell’s Managers as mentors, he explains mentoring as a process in which the mentor helps the mentee learn. Bell explains the learning formula by describing its informal, infrequent, and nonconformist aspects. The thought of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates as bridge opponents comes to mind. Both are corporate icons in their respective places, but they mentor each other on both business and non-business topics. Neither is tempted to one-up the other.
The root word for discipline is disciple. The Internet Etymology Dictionary gives an idea of the student who achieves understanding. Students demand teachers. Thus, the process of teaching or disciplining implies an environment of order, authority, and strictness.
Comparing and contrasting discipline and mentoring can be seen as the difference between skill and mastery. A leader can disciple his followers to gain expertise. In empowered, delegated business cultures, discipleship involves situations that require confirmation by the chain of command. This is especially important in virtual and global organizations. Leaders can measure the effectiveness of their discipline by the follower’s ability to apply acquired skills to predictably perform assigned responsibilities.
The concept of disciplining has several practical examples. Certified public accountant and bar exams prove technical competencies for potential employers. Commercial banks regularly organize credit training programs for new employees. Even permanent employees receive additional and compliance training, such as sexual harassment, equal employment opportunity and conflict management.
Mentoring mastery aims for a different game plan than disciplining. Mentors do not trump mentees with authority. Real mentoring is offered to mentees for personal consideration and voluntary adoption. The mentor’s insights are presented to the mentee as a medium for achieving higher levels of performance and personal fulfillment. Through effective mentoring, the mentee can reach the top of psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs: self-actualization.
While a mentee may shy away from knowledge without immediate consequences, a bad decision can damage career development. This option gives the mentee the ability to differentiate. Moreover, because the learning experience involves a mentor, the mentor has the opportunity to experiment with stylistic approaches to sharing knowledge with other potential mentees.
Mentoring is a mutual opportunity. A mentor can become a mentee. While a mentoring role may imply seniority, a (potentially) younger mentee can pass on knowledge to their mentor. For example, a veteran mentor can provide mentees with knowledge about multicultural virtual teams. A mentee can benefit from technological expertise to manage projects such as Microsoft Project Server and Microsoft Share Point.
Discipline and guidance can be studied through Frederick Herzberg’s two-factor theory of hygienic and motivating factors. Perhaps hygiene factors are in line with discipline. Hygiene factors include company policies and administration, supervision, interpersonal relations, working conditions, pay, status, and security. Perhaps the motivational factors are consistent with mentoring. Motivating factors are achievement, recognition of achievement, work itself, responsibility, advancement and growth.
Workgroups are increasingly diverse in terms of age, gender, demographics and geography. Consequently, a manager’s strategy for disciplining and guiding his team must be aligned with the theaters of business model execution. A leader must be savvy enough to choose the best scenario for disciplining and guiding followers. In cases of their complexity, the leader may abandon direct discipline and guidance in favor of an indirect route. These paths can be internal or external to the organization.
Managers should consider cultural differences in their discipline and coaching strategies. The Geert-Hofstede Cultural Variation Tool provides comparative insights into the categories of power-distance index, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance index, and long-term orientation. For example, a large variation in the power-distance index may indicate that disciplining is easier than coaching. In more egalitarian cultures, mentoring may be easier than disciplining.
Dr. John Ivancevich provides generations of knowledge in his textbook, Personnel management. The largest generation is mostly retired from the workforce. Although their formal education may be relatively spartan for subsequent generations, their experiences are invaluable. Are they mentors on hold?
What about Generation X? They are approaching the final scenes of their careers. What do Gen Xers bring to the workforce as disciples and mentors of Generation Y? Can these generations exchange knowledge in the context of mentoring?
The real dividends of disciplining and coaching are the mutual satisfaction of improved employee performance. Although the effects of discipline may be evident, supervision may not leave observable causal evidence. Therefore, the manager must settle for favorable results, never knowing for sure what part is attributable to mentoring. Such is the lead waltz.
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