If you’re in business, the bet is that you would like to be able to take your business to the top (bearing in mind that “the top” means different things to different people). I’m sure that no one starts a business and say “I just want to run a mediocre business” or “I want to fail at business”. If you did, then you are better off just working for someone else. It’s a lot easier and a lot less stressful.
How do you go about taking your business to the top? This TED video says everyone needs a coach – in my lingo, “everyone” means “everyone”. Yes, even business people need a coach. Did you notice who this doctor used as his coach? No, it was not the new young kid from the block who has just graduated from medical school. It was also not one of his colleagues. He approached someone who has “been there, done that”. You see, the best way is to learn from people who’ve gone before you.
No doubt, some people will disagree with me. Some argue that whilst they do not have the experience, age does not equate to coaching abilities. By definition, the focus of coaching is usually task and performance. The role of the coach is to give feedback on what they observe. My personal view is that you cannot give proper feedback if you have not had any experience in the area. What would you look for? Would you even know that something isn’t right? Knowledge is therefore important. Knowledge is therefore one of the key qualities that distinguish a good coach from a great coach. How much knowledge can a young(er) person impart to you?
I would therefore disagree with this surgeon when he said “Everyone needs a coach”. I would say everyone needs a coach AND mentor. If you want to take your business to the top, you need a great mentor and coach, not just a coach. There is a difference. In mentoring, you set you own goals. In coaching, your coach sets the goals. The coach comes from the premise that you actually already know the answer within you and his or her role is to ask the right questions to draw out that answer. A mentor is someone who has “been there, done that”. A mentor is someone who has done the hard yard, made his or her mistakes and learnt to fail forward. A mentor’s role is to build capability. A mentor is someone who has an ongoing relationship with you that can last a long period of time whereas a coach should only be for a set duration. A mentor will often use a mix of mentoring, coaching and teaching to take you where you want to go.
It takes more than just knowing the right questions to ask. A mentor is one who can recognise WHEN he or she should switch from a straight coaching role to being a mentor or the teacher. From experience, I can usually recognise when certain strategies will not work … irrespective of how much effort you put into it! In those situation, spending hours “drawing out the answer from within” is a waste of time.
Mentoring involves primarily listening with empathy, sharing experience (usually mutually), professional friendship, developing insight through reflection, being a sounding board, encouraging.
What qualities do you look for in a mentor and coach?
There’s no point in my reinventing the wheel. Just ask Mr Google. The list generally include communication skills, compassion, objectivity, knowledge, leadership, consistency, knows the person they are coaching (or has the ability to get to know the person quickly), passion and inspiring. You have to have in-depth knowledge although not necessarily in the exact industry. The key here is that the mentor must be able to apply the knowledge and experience they have to your particular circumstances.
Two qualities that are not often listed in Google’s answer are integrity and connection. Google lists often include honesty. But integrity is more than honesty. Integrity is about honesty AND having strong moral principals. If your mentor does not have integrity, how can you be sure that your mentor is doing what is best and right for you? If you are going to have a great long term fruitful mentor-mentee relationship, then you must have connection. Can you imagine anything worse than having to meet up with someone regularly and you just cannot relate to him or her?
Business Mastery is about taking your business to the top. It is about identifying the strategies that must be implemented, the skills that you must master, the knowledge that you must have, overcoming your fears (we all have them … myself included) and dealing with the inevitable failures that you will meet in your business. A great mentor will be able to help you identify all those and more.
What is a mentor worth to you and your business? We happily spend $150 a month (or more for some people) on coffee and all we get is a daily caffeine hit. Do the sums … $5 for a cup of “real coffee” is not unusual. Multiply that by 30 days. Is a great mentor worth $200 a month? $400 a month? $1,000 a month? If you have a mentor that’s adding real value to your business, what is that truly worth to you to be able to take your business to the top?