"A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” - Zig Ziglar
Coaches and mentors can be a powerful addition to your success equation. Find the right one and she/he becomes the cheerleader who keeps you motivated, the guardrails that prevent you from going too far off track, the anchor that keeps you grounded, and the magnifying glass that brings blur into focus.
What’s the Difference Between a Coach and a Mentor?
What to Look For in a Coach or Mentor.
- Are they trained and certified, or do they possess an advanced formal education that makes them a good fit to coach you? Coaching is highly unregulated and therefore anyone can call themselves a coach. Pull back the covers and make sure any coach you’re considering has the background, experience, and education to truly coach you.
- Do they share your values? If you and your coach have misaligned values, it will be difficult to excel in the relationship. As an example, let’s say maintaining a healthy work-life balance is among your core values, but if your coach subscribes to a “pedal to the metal” approach, then you may find yourself in conflict with the pace and expectations of your coach. (Connecting with your core values is essential. If you don’t have clarity on them, or if you feel they may have shifted over the years, check out this free 10-part video-based course which includes a lesson on identifying and connecting with your values.)
- Is their coaching practice structured? A good coach will have a quality system in place that includes things like an established intake procedure, a standardized method for how calls/meetings take place, and formalized tools and resources they leverage to help you achieve your goals and objectives. If you get the impression a coach isn’t organized or doesn’t take their craft seriously, trust your gut and interview other coaches.
- Do they have an online presence you resonate with? Finding the right coach is important so take the time to do some digging. Check out their social media profiles, visit their website, read their blog posts, watch their online videos. If their online presence doesn’t resonate with you, chances are, their coaching style won’t either.
- Are they willing to provide a free consultation to determine if it’s a mutually good fit? You’re paying the coaching bill, so you want to make sure you’re going to get value from the relationship. A free consultation is a great way to ask questions, evaluate their coaching style, and ensure that their approach gels with you. As an important side note, a great coach will make you feel slightly uncomfortable as they push you beyond your comfort zone. If you’re not pushed, you won’t grow, so keep this in mind when evaluating coaches.
- Do they have a proven track record in the area you’re trying to develop? People seek mentors to get help and direction filling an experience gap, therefore a great mentor will be one who lives by example. Before approaching a potential mentor, do some online research to ensure their past successes are a good match for your future endeavors. A mentor whose track record is not aligned with your vision for the future may not be the best fit.
- Do they share your values? As discussed above in regards to coaches, the same is true for mentors: values matter. As an example, if you value honesty and authenticity, but their public persona is vastly different from their private persona, then they may not be the right mentor for you. Look for mentors who complement your values and can help you live into them more fully. (If you don’t have clarity on your values or feel they may have shifted over the years, check out this free 10-part video-based course which includes a lesson on identifying and connecting with your values.)
- Do they have the time and flexibility to be an available resource? Since mentors are volunteering their time, make sure they have the time available to share in your journey. Understanding their level of availability will help you determine if the relationship will be mutually beneficial. In addition, having this conversation upfront will show that you value their time, helping to establish mutual respect from the onset.
- Do they possess traits that will help you thrive? A great mentor will be supportive and helpful, but at the same time will challenge you to do the necessary work to bring your dreams to fruition. They’ll value integrity and will always be open and honest with you, regardless of whether they’re delivering glowing praise or sharing constructive criticism. While their life will be just as full as yours, they’ll always give you their undivided, focused attention when having a meeting or a call. And they too will be lifelong learners who value their own growth and development as much as they do yours.
- Do they have strong communication skills? Communication is multi-faceted. A good mentor will listen as much as they speak, take a personal interest in what you’re sharing, and be able to clearly articulate feedback and insights. They’ll have patience knowing they may have to deliver multiple explanations and will possess a natural knack for reframing things until you fully grasp the topic of conversation. They’ll be active in both asking and answering questions, and will be able to help you concretely articulate the vision you hold for yourself.
How to Find a Coach or Mentor.
- Clarify what you want from a mentor/mentoree relationship. If you’re not clear regarding your expectations and desires, it will be difficult to share your “why” with a potential mentor.
- Identify someone whom you feel would be a great mentor for you. Remember to keep in mind the points above regarding what to look for in this relationship.
- Communicate with this person and share why you’re looking for a mentor, the reasoning behind reaching out to them specifically, and what you hope to achieve through a mentor/mentoree relationship.
- Ask if they’d be willing to mentor you.
What Expectations Should be Set with a Coach or Mentor?
When calls/meetings will take place.
The duration of the coaching relationship.
The level of communication allowed between formal calls/meetings.
Tools or resources provided.
Payment methods and terms.
The time commitment being allotted to the relationship.
The frequency of calls/meetings. (Will they only be pre-scheduled or also on an as-needed basis?)
The best methods of communication. (Email, text, WhatsApp, phone calls, etc.)
Rules to help foster the relationship. (I.e., cell phones off during meetings, no phone calls between 9pm and 6am, everything remains confidential, etc.)
Predetermined time frames to evaluate the relationship and ensure it's mutually beneficial.