Why “coaching is coaching” is a myth

Posted On March 20, 2019

You don’t need me to tell you that women are a force in today’s workplace – just look around. Women are established at all levels of management, from corporate boardrooms to main street entrepreneurs, even in industries that were once completely male-dominated.

But are they motivated in the same ways as men? Should managers coach or mentor them in the same ways? Or are there mentoring approaches that work with men that might not be as effective with women, and vice versa?

In the latest episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston,” I asked these questions to two women who have made their careers in coaching other women. One is Karen Novak, Chief Operating Officer of Advisor Solutions at BNY Mellon Pershing. The other is my wife, Lisa Marston, who is a very successful high school volleyball coach at St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile.

Novak noted that while a fear of failure can make many women more cautious than their male counterparts, they are usually quicker to embrace mentorship than men.

“Typically women are running to get into mentor relationships. They own it, they embrace it, they’re very introspective about where their development needs are and they’re doing the hard work to make sure that relationship is going to be meaningful and meet their objectives,” she said. “On the other hand, men will enter those relationships, but at the request of someone else. And typically, men tend to think the reason they’re tapped on the shoulder to participate is they have something to be fixed.”

While men tend to think linearly – fix the problem and let’s move on – Novak says women see such mentor relationships as an investment in themselves.

The genders can also be different in their approaches to the workplace, she notes – many men are there to “win,” while women often have a more cooperative mindset.

But that doesn’t mean women aren’t as competitive as men. Marston believes their competitiveness – and their willingness to be pushed — is often underestimated.

“I’ve always felt that if you can establish trust and an environment that is caring and trusting, then you can push women very, very hard,” she said. “Women are fiercely competitive, so they want to do well and they want to succeed, so I do think you can push women just as hard as you can men.”

How does a coach or mentor establish that trust? Join us to hear Marston’s answer, as well as insight from both women on giving effective feedback, the importance of both sides putting in the legwork in a mentor relationship, and why the old adage “coaching is coaching” isn’t necessarily true.

Categories: Podcast, What's Working with Cam Marston, Women, Workplace