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Coaching and mentoring are best used for the development of key role-holding employees, as evidenced in part by their widest use with top executives in corporations. The skills to develop will differ by role holder, but there will be trends to use with different types of employees. The current job level of each employee group will often determine which type of coach or mentor is made available, as the relative investment cost will vary. The key however, is that at this level, the best practice is to offer coaching and/or mentoring to a wider range of employees based on their membership in both a position or function that has been determined to be critical (strategically valuable, difficult to replace or train) and demonstrates potential for higher level roles.
Top leaders (direct reports to the CEO, and perhaps their direct reports) inhabit the most common critical roles exposed to executive coaching for individualized development purposes. Their development needs tend to center on personal and interpersonal traits and capabilities, and as such are best suited for working with an external coach with extensive executive-level experience. As they are at the top levels of the organization, they tend not to be good candidates for internal mentoring - rather the identification of an external mentor (e.g., a former boss or successful executive at another company in or outside of their industry) makes the most sense if that is considered best for the individual.