A while back, I wrote about what a mentor is. You can check that out here. Mentors and coaches are somewhat used synonymously, but they are actually different. A mentor is someone who will guide you along your journey to achieve a certain goal, usually to gain a promotion, become better at a certain aspect of your job or role (such as leadership, accounting, etc.).
A coach, on the other hand, is there to help you improve in a certain area of your work (professional business) or life (life coach). Each have a different purpose. Within each coaching type, you will find coaches that specialize in more specific areas based on their area of expertise. For example, some business coaches focus on leadership, efficiency, accounting, or general business practices.
A business coach will help with improve:
A business coach will also:
A life coach will:
A life coach is not a board-certified therapist. A life coach will help identify areas in your life that can be improved upon, and help make recommendations. One of these recommendations may be to seek professional counseling as a means to improve in a certain area of your life.
Both business and life coaches will provide recommendations. Typically, that is all they are – recommendations. So, it is up to you to decipher whether (or not) the advice/recommendation given is right for you. Keep in mind that the coach is giving you their best advice, to help you succeed, and be the best you can. Your time is valuable, and so is theirs. If you disagree (completely) with your coach too often, you may not have the right coach for you. If you find this to be true, perhaps seek a different coach. They will do the same (if they are any good). It doesn’t help either party to continue a relationship (because that is what it is) if neither are agreeing with each other or are dissatisfied.
Next week, I will discuss why everyone needs a coach.
Until next time…
When I was going through Officer Candidate School (OCS), we were pushed to the brink (or so I thought) pretty regularly. Early mornings, late nights, long days, lots of sweat, and constant learning. One of the mantras we were taught really stuck with me, well, a lot stuck with me.
When in charge, take charge; when in a leadership position, lead; when in a follower position, follow.
It made sense. If you are in charge or report to someone, then do it. Well, the OCS cadre pushed candidates, placing them under pressure, to see how they respond. If they responded poorly, then additional training (in some form) was required. The purpose of this was to place these leaders into positions where decisions were to be made while under stress, to teach them how to manage stressful situations and lead others – prepare them to lead Soldiers into battle if needed. It made sense, if you are in charge then you better take charge and lead your Soldiers.
So, why was this so valuable? This also holds true in a business or non-profit environment as well. Let’s break this down.
When in charge, take charge.
You are responsible for the situation and you must take control and get the job done. Delegate as needed, provide task and purpose, and see it to completion. Sounds easy, right? How many times have you seen or been in a meeting or office where it was difficult to tell who was in charge – who’s the boss? If this happens, then whoever is in charge, is not taking charge. If this is you, then insert your authority and take charge of the situation. This does not have to be done in an “I’M THE BOSS” way, but make sure that what is supposed to be happening, actually is happening. Whoever is in charge, may not even be the boss. He or she may just be the person responsible for that task, project, or meeting. Still, if you are in charge, take charge.
When in a leadership position, lead.
Similar to when in charge, take charge, this is focused on leading others. If you are in charge, you may have a responsibility to see a task or project through to completion. If you are the leader, you have an obligation to mentor, direct, inspire, motivate, and so on. Leading is more than seeing a task through, it is about building others – building leaders. What happens quite often, is people in leadership positions really are or become managers. Managers are task or product focused – did enough product get delivered on time, is the office running efficiently, and so on. A leader needs to shift some of their efforts from task completion (which is important) to building others. If you are a leader, then lead.
When in a follower position, follow.
From a leadership perspective, following well is just as important as leading well. In fact, following well may actually lead others. Here’s how. Back to OCS… since everyone took their turn leading the class and being a follower, each candidate knew what it was like to lead a group, sometimes it was like herding kittens and others like a symphony in motion. So, the best way to help your peer leader succeed, was to be an exceptional follower. What does that mean? Well, if given a task from the leader, do it to the best of your ability. That’s it. Sure, sometimes our best is not that great, but all you can do is learn and do better.
So, by following well, you show your peers that you care enough to help them succeed, and in turn, they will do the same for you. Additionally, if others see you doing your best, they are more likely to do their best as well, or know that you care for others which inspires and motivates. Think of it this way. How many times have you seen or heard of the subordinate surpassing a superior, and becoming their boss? If that boss struggled to get their former subordinate to cooperate and do their share, what do you think they are most likely to do in return?
When in charge, take charge.
When in a leadership position, lead.
When in a follower position, follow.
To the best of your ability.
One of the greatest privileges and responsibilities as a leader, is the development of others. The opportunity to help shape the methods by which your budding leader motivates and inspires others, and achieves their goals is wonderful. Yet, it can be quite challenging at the same time.
One thing I find challenging is the idea (that many organizations follow) that it is better to invest into the already successful, then to invest in those struggling. That is, the organization should invest resources (time, money, etc.) into training, educating, supporting, and so on, the individuals and teams that are already producing results. The idea is, investing in someone that is already achieving, is more likely to bring a greater return on the investment.
The idea is, why invest in someone ok to make them good, when you can invest in someone good to make them great. Isn’t it better to have someone great on your team then someone good? From a business stance, this makes sense. As a business owner, I would rather invest in people (or things) able to bring a greater return on my investment.
However, should this same methodology be followed when dealing with people? Especially, when, as a leader, we are to motivate, inspire, train, equip, enable… others to achieve? Should a leader ignore the challenging potential leader, simply because the “return” may not be as great? What if the return is not immediate, what if the benefits may only be realized years down the road, what then? What if the return is not even for you or your organization, rather, the good of society or simply another organization?
At what point, should we stop investing in others because the return may not be as great as investing in someone else? Is it giving up on one person while investing in another?
Perhaps I am wrong, but I think leaders are to build other leaders regardless of where they may end up. If someone has the potential, build them. If they are ok, but a little time and energy can make them good, then do it. Investing in others should be about them.
However, if it is a business decision, and the potential leader is not the right fit, then help them find their fit – in your organization or another. You are not doing them – or yourself – any good by keeping them around for the sake of doing right by them. Instead, help them find their fit, and lead them from where you are and where they land. This implies that you will continue to lead them until they no longer seek your guidance, someone else takes over and develops them, or both.
How will you handle the challenge? Feel free to respond, I would love to hear what you have to say.
A mentor is someone willing to help guide someone else towards the achievement of a specific goal, someone with experience in a certain area, able to provide guidance, direction, and constructive criticism based on experience and knowledge gained.
Many think a mentor is someone who will cheer in your corner and tell you that you are making great decisions. It makes you feel invincible and that all of your decisions are correct. You feel like you can do nothing wrong. Then… it happens. Your mentor challenges you to take a larger step forward, maybe even a leap!
Mentors are more than a cheerleader applauding when things go right, or encouraging when things go wrong. A mentor seeks to help find the most beneficial path for your journey and will provide a directional change if a correction is needed. Sometimes, perhaps more often than you might think, your mentor will challenge you to make those uncomfortable decisions, taking you outside of your comfort zone, helping you grow in the process. The intention is not to simply make you uncomfortable (although that is likely going to happen), but to help you become stronger and more knowledgeable in some area.
What is the difference between a mentor and a coach?
They are quite similar, depending on who you ask. I take a different approach with mentoring than with coaching, which drives my definition. Mentors and coaches will help with some challenge or concern in your professional and/or personal (yes, personal) life. The key difference is outcome and time.
The mentor/mentee relationship is more of a partnership that may last a long time (years or even decades). It is less formal in nature and follows a more holistic approach, looking at the whole person and situation to help them grow personally and professionally. There may be a specific set of concerns to address or it may just be someone looking to grow in general.
The coach/coachee relationship follows a more structured approach, designed to resolve a specific issue or concern within a specified period of time (30 days to a year, sometimes more). The structure to resolve the issue or concern is driven by the coach. The emphasis is resolution of a specific issue such as leading unmotivated people, career transition, becoming more organized… If you can think it, there is probably a coach that specializes in it.
I tend to coach my mentee through specific situations to accomplish the task at hand, while mentoring them through the process. For those looking for a coach only (to get through a situation), the focus becomes issue resolution, resulting in some degree of mentoring. Ultimately, call it what you want. The point is to help others through guidance and direction.
How do I find a mentor?
Well, it really depends on why you are looking for a mentor. The starting point is to determine what your end goal is. Do you have a challenging individual at work you are struggling with? Are you looking to transition from one career to another? Do you feel your life is at a stand-still? Perhaps you just have no clue! It is ok, the first step is realizing you need help.
Finding a mentor may be easier to do than you think. Identify what it is you are looking to achieve such as becoming a better leader, transitioning to a new career, thrive in life, and so on.
Then, look for someone who:
If you don't know what you need just yet, look for a life coach. They will be able to help identify where and how to kick-start your journey. Start by finding someone you trust who has used a life coach. If you don’t know anyone who has, then do a simple internet search. You may need to try a few before you find the perfect fit, but there will be one, just keep looking.
Another thing to remember is you may have a mentor or coach sitting right next to you. Do you have a good manager at work you admire? How about a parent or relative? Neighbor? Look around, the person you need may be closer than you think.
Until next week…
Jared W. Snow
Shameless plug – we offer coaching and mentor services if you are interested. Just reach out and let us know how we can help.
This past weekend, Dr. William Snow, another author here at The Leadership Center (full disclosure, he is also my father!), received the 2016 Outstanding Mentor Award from WACES (www.waces.org). If you ask him, he will tell you he is humbled and honored to receive the nomination and award, being recognized for his contributions to the betterment and success of his peers, students, and others around him.
So, what does it take to become an award winning mentor?
In the 18 page nomination you will find phrases like, “Dr. Snow has sparked a light inside of me”, “Seeing the passion that Dr. Snow has”, “endless mental and emotional support.”, “I am always able to reach out to him…thank you for believing in me”, “He went out of his way”, “Dr. Snow made me feel at ease and alleviated my anxiety”, “Dr. Snow consistently and continuously makes himself available”, “he remembered my name”, “It’s hard to describe (interaction with Dr. Snow), but it’s the feeling you get when you experience a role model without knowing it.”, and “Time after time, he astounds me with his wisdom in finding creative solutions to the problems I brought to him.”
You will also find words like compassion, passion, genuine, engaged, grace (second chances), helpful, supportive, generous, wisdom, gentle, kind, encouraging, patient, understanding, respect, positive, responsive, role model, inspiration, and creative.
These characteristics are common to everyone. The key is to learn to employ them at the right time, in the right manner, in a way that inspires others. This, my friends, is the challenge, and when developed and cultivated successfully (to help others), may just result in your ability to truly mentor others. It is up to you, the leader, to find these qualities within you, or learn to embody them, to inspire, support, and motivate others in a passionate, gentle, and patient manner to achieve their goals.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I will touch on various aspects of mentoring. I look forward to this journey with you, as we dive deeper into the joys of mentoring.
Jared W. Snow