Are you coaching or mentoring?

It is easy to become confused about the differences between coaching and mentoring.

Often times the two terms are used interchangeably when in fact there are some very distinct differences. The primary distinction being “who established the course of action”.  In mentoring, the course of action is usually provided by the mentor, whereas in a true coaching engagement, it is the coachee who creates the action plan. Most managers, in the interests of being expedient, choose to mentor, as opposed to coaching.  Why? It is quicker and more “efficient.”  As a result the lasting quality of the lesson is marginalized. The reason is simple. If a person sets a personal goal, and successfully accomplishes it after painstakingly working toward its achievement, personal and professional growth is always a powerful byproduct. The result is that similar situations will seem familiar, the coachee’s confidence will rise and they can approach that new problem with greater confidence. In a mentoring engagement, however, the mentee does not go through the pain of evaluating options, choosing a course of action or experiencing the personal satisfaction of conquering the challenge. Thus, they are deprived of a key growth component.


The coach’s responsibility is to offer perspective through powerful questions then motivate and hold the coachee accountable to attaining their objectives.   Both Coaching and mentoring have their place in the work place. Coaching is the highest order of learning in any professional environment.  As managers we trip over scores of coaching opportunities daily.  Ask yourself; do you address those opportunities as a coach, mentor or manager?


Talent assessment lessons from the NFL combine

Each year in February, in preparation for the draft, NFL staff descends like locusts on Lucas stadium for the annual NFL Combine. It is here that the most talented college players in the land come to display their talent, improve their draft positions and position themselves for that big contract.  For major NFL Franchises, the vetting process is by no means a science but combine attendees are put through a battery of skills tests, interviews and assessments (Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test ) as staff attempt to gauge the relative worth of the assembled athletes. These processes are similar to the evaluation process we use in selecting a top talent for our company.  One thing is certain in both instances, and that is that there is no guarantee.  At some point there is a leap of faith.  There are countless stories of that 1st round pick that went bust, or that 5th rounder who turns out to be a hall of famer. Or the athlete with wonderful skills, but a checkered background and they crash and burn.

Don’t waste your draft picks; avoid the six key “Hiring Horrors:”

  • Hiring from a position of desperation
  • Ill-defined selection criteria
  • Superficial questioning techniques
  • Too much reliance on the interview
  • Bypassing the reference check
  • Failure to validate using objective testing


There is no more important task in your career than hiring right, give it the diligence it’s due.


C.H.A.M.P… a disciplined approach to effective leadership

Exceptional leaders understand the value of human relations and the distinction between leadership, management, supervision and training. multiple demands combined with the increasing speed of information can lead to a loss of focus which impacts our effectiveness

What is it that great leaders do to avoid being swallowed up in these competing requirements, rendering them ineffective?  They recognize that leadership boils down to their ability to maintain focus on those practice areas which yield the greatest gain:  Coaching, Hiring, Assessing, Managing and Planning, an acronym which I have come to call CHAMP.  Great leaders are able to rise above the minutia and sustain allocating 80% of their time to these five critical high gain areas. Sadly, my experience is that few are able to sustain more than 15% of their time on these areas.

Let’s look at the components of each of these practice areas in greater detail:


COACHING:   Undoubtedly the highest order of human development available to managers. Great managers are able to take a step back from the frenetic pace, sift through the tasks and find ways to continuously coach their people.  When asked why they do not coach more, I am told, I do  not have the time.  My response,  “Coaching is not some adjunct part of your job… it IS the Job”

HIRING:  Leaders realize that there is no time in their business career when they have more to gain (or lose) than when they are hiring someone. They adhere to stringent guidelines when selecting and evaluating candidates and have learned to avoid six key “Hiring Horrors:”

  • Hiring from a position of desperation
  • Ill-defined selection criteria
  • Superficial questioning techniques
  • Too much reliance on the interview
  • Bypassing the reference check
  • Failure to validate using objective testing

ASSESSING TALENT:  The importance of assessing and benchmarking their team is important to leaders.  There is a need to know, in a very detailed way, the strengths and weaknesses of their team as a whole, as well as those of the specific individuals who comprise that team.  Objective assessments are part of any great manager’s toolkit.

MANAGING:  Many managers focus on the final result and leave the daily blocking and tackling to their employees.  Unfortunately this approach leaves a large gap between daily activity and an eventual sale, providing enormous pressure (but very little guidance) for the individual. Successful leaders have reverse engineered their goals (quotas) and have established metrics and activity standards (KPI’s) which hold their people to clearly defined activities.

PLANNING: A budget is NOT a plan, however  many companies confuse the two.  You must have a clearly defined roadmap as to where you are going  and then reverse thos objectives into smaller, quantifiable tactical “Chunks”


Read More about C.H.A.M.P.




Leadership lessons from Super Bowl XLIX

Shoveling my driveway this morning  (I live in Buffalo NY, that’s what we do!) I was reflecting on the Super Bowl, It occurred to me that there are several significant leadership lessons we might take from Super Bowl XLIX.  We saw two strong contestants fighting to the very end, not uncommon in the business world. We also saw two Coaches and their respective staffs strategize to gain a competitive analysis.  Almost 100 players played their hearts out for a full 60 minutes.  As I reflect on the battle, several points stood out which determined the outcome.  If we allow ourselves, we can take powerful leadership lessons from the event:

Adversity:  For the past 2 weeks we have heard incessantly about Deflate-gate.  Belichick and Brady stood steady, and rose above the distraction, maintained focus and in fact, drew strength from the challenge, which fueled their competitive desire to overcome. When faced with adversity leaders embrace the challenge.

Determination:  The plays down the stretch of both halves drew out the best in each player as we saw heroic plays by both sides. Whether it was incredible offensive plays or stellar defensive displays, each player seemed to peak when the chips were on the line.  Leaders WANT the ball.

Perseverance:  The Patriots overcame the single greatest 4th quarter deficit in history to battle back and win.  In response Seattle, playing desperate in the end, drove to the goal line before the misguided call that effectively ended the game. Leaders persevere knowing they will prevail.

Preparation:  Each team was uber-prepared for the task at hand, and people such as Malcolm Butler and Chris Mathews stepped up to make a difference.  Focus and preparation are the cornerstone of great leadership.

SWOT analysis:  Great leaders have great vision. They survey the landscape, assess the Opportunities and Threats, and take action.  They are OK with taking educated risks, not foolhardy emotional risks. Pete Carroll out thought himself, and may leave a legacy more as a recklessness dice roller and  not as  a genius.

Personal Accountability:  In the final analysis, Pete Carroll placed the blame… appropriately on his own shoulders for the bone-head call on 2 and 1. Leaders accept responsibility and ownership

Hedgehog:  Seattle strayed from their bread and butter, that which the can be best in the world at, and that which through the course of the year drove their engine… Marshawn (Beast-mode) Lynch.  Great leaders stick to their knitting and utilize their strengths.

Humility:  After a “sleepless night in Seattle”, Pete Caroll awoke to the realization that his Hubris led to the loss.  A great leader has Humility and perspective.  Then again, Pete Caroll will Persevere…

Assessments in the workplace

There are three significant trends pertaining to the United States workforce which merit consideration:
There is a growing shortage of qualified workers.
The workforce is increasingly mobile and less loyal.
Human Capital is fast becoming the most valuable asset for top performing companies.

DISC is a personal assessment tool used to improve work productivity, teamwork and communication. The use of behavioral assessments such as DiSC, Trimetrix, the Big Five, 360’s and the Predictive Index  are all vital assessment tools in effective communications and professional growth. There is a need for leaders to know, in a very detailed and objective way, the strengths and weaknesses of their team as a whole, the specific individuals who comprise that team and job candidates who will contribute to the corporate culture. A good assessment tool will offer insights into  motivators, competencies and behavioral tendencies

Assessments allow you to benchmark and measure skills and behaviors of top performers. They also allow you to create targeted training and coaching which will enhance individual behaviors. Valid and reliable assessments are part of any great manager’s toolkit.

Learn how you can make assessments work for you


Coach & Consultant

Hahn Training





The Importance of Coaching in creating Alignment

Don Hahn The commitment to coaching is a cultural phenomenon and comes from the very top. The good news is that corporations are now placing greater emphasis on human capital. Increased competition, the globalization of our economy and the shortage of qualified workers is accelerating this trend. If you manage people, coaching should be a continuous part of your daily activity. Coaching takes many forms. It can be as simple as asking your people “what do YOU think we should do about the problem?” next time they descend upon you as you enter the office. It should also be time which is formally scheduled weekly or monthly in which you set aside 30 minutes to career path your people and provide performance feedback.

The greatest complaint I receive from my clients is that they do not have the time to invest in coaching their people. This indeed is a conundrum. The fact is, the more time you spend coaching your people, the less time you will spend putting out fires.  Good coaching starts with vision and leads to accountability and empowerment. Define what coaching is to you, and make a commitment to invest in your people. We must shift our paradigm if we hope to become more effective at coaching. To do this we must cease viewing coaching as an adjunct part of the job and view it as THE job itself.  Generally when we purchase an asset as a company, we place it in our balance sheet and amortize the asset by creating a depreciation schedule.

Human Capital is the one corporate asset which will appreciate in value, if we attend to it.