posted on August 03, 2020
This post is the third of a series of three on the topic of mentorship/coaching. In parts 1 and 2, we discussed the benefits of having mentors and coaches in your life, and how and where to find them.
Once you have established a cooperation with a mentor or a coach, you can turn your attention to the most crucial aspect of such a relationship: generating value for yourself through learning. You already know the difference between a mentor and a coach: knowing vs. doing. This distinction is an essential factor in generating value and getting bang for your buck. It also should suggest to you what kind of value you can expect!
Coaches are like a one-person army: they know what, how, when, and where. The best way to utilize their help is by following their lead in mindset, productivity, and efficiency.
If your coach seems to be always prepared and on top of things, that's not a coincidence. Neither is their calm, almost calculated perspective at various aspects of personal and professional life. It comes from a well-formed mindset. Mindfulness is the first thing you should focus on in your development journey, as it can be a sturdy and stable foundation of your new and improved mindset. It can significantly improve your attitude, optimism, and perspective, and can make you more attentive, investigative, and detail-oriented.
Coaches excel in productivity. Ask to work together on the planning of your work, breaking down goals into step-by-step tasks that seem doable, and preparing necessary materials to see how their techniques can improve your workflow. Over time you will feel confident on your own, tackling more substantial and more extensive tasks through accumulated practice.
It's best to ask for help instead of feeling lost and overwhelmed — it's a great learning opportunity! Your coach might even suggest alternatives and different ways to achieve your goals, so don't hesitate to ask because you should work smart, not hard.
As much as managing one's workload, it's essential to keep the momentum and velocity by being efficient. Ask your coach to audit the way you work: where you spend the most time, which aspects bring you joy or frustrate you, keep the progress smooth, or hit a bottleneck. Having adequate tools can save time, making you more efficient in the long run, so ask your coach about their favorite apps, devices, and services. Shaving off just 10 minutes a day allows you to reallocate at least 40 hours in a year for other work — it's a whole work week!
Mentors know a lot and have accumulated years of experience. The best way to utilize-their help is through discussions, brainstorming, and learning.
The amount of knowledge that can be shared at once is limited, so make sure you're asking the right questions: be precise and coherent. Instead of thinking about general problems, try to narrow your problem to a specific example. You can always generalize and branch out when you feel confident with the received answer and understand both the problem and the solution.
Brainstorming is a useful tool for picking your mentor's brain and creatively utilizing their knowledge and experience. You should present your initial ideas and let your mentor analyze, enrich, and transform them. You will be surprised how their personal and professional experience will improve your initial thoughts, show new directions, or shine a light on the potential issues and problems.
Finally, learning and transforming your mindset is where the value of the mentorship relationship lies. Changing the way of thinking and learning useful skills in areas of critical and domain thinking can elevate the quality of your ideas and improve your efficiency and productivity. Ask for specific knowledge and skills or mention the direction in which you would like to grow and let your mentor develop the personalized plan of learning. There is no shame in asking for help and admitting I don't know — it's honest and constructive!
No matter which relationship you establish, there is one component common to both: honesty. Your mentor or coach is on your side, i.e., their goal is to make you successful and steer you away from the dangers of failure. Clear and honest communication enables the barrier-free exchange of knowledge and experience. It is crucial to admit failures, doubt, and be able to say I don't know, to allow effective communication and reduce stress.
One point of the coaching contract even explicitly states that you are responsible for applying the coach's advice. You are free to question it as it's also a part of the healthy relationship. Asking questions and critical thinking is vital to seeing your problems from many different angles and coming up with better and more diverse solutions.
Most of the time, your mentor or coach will know more and will be more efficient. Don't let yourself fall into the trap of expecting them to work alongside or even work for you. Their role is to advise and provide alternative or complementary perspectives, not acting as your senior employee. Focus on yourself and improving your mindset, instead of taking the low-hanging fruit and abusing the relationship.
Another common expectation is expecting quick growth. While you can learn specific skills and concepts fairly quickly, many will require much practice to master. Give yourself time and focus on the compounding of your experience. Making a small effort every single day will add up to more significant growth over time. The mentor will prevent you from getting stuck, while the coach will keep you rolling.
If you feel like there's not enough progress, discuss this feeling with your mentor or coach. They will provide some perspective on your development and might adjust their working methods to relate to your doubts. They can point out the successes you overlooked and help with feelings of inadequacy, doubt, or imposter-syndrome. It's your journey, and they are mere guides!
Mentoring and coaching are powerful tools. Having proper expectations and honestly approaching the learnings are the best ways to open oneself to growth, re-shape one's mindset, and make a leap forward.
It's helpful to keep a journal with notes on techniques, ideas, and solutions. Some people even document their failures, focusing on the lessons learned and acquired insight. Create your way of documenting your growth and celebrating victories.
Accepting one's shortcomings and failures is a path to improvement. By understanding how you think and making an effort to change, you open yourself to a mindful and open attitude towards challenges in personal and professional life.
Embracing the possibility of having knowledgeable and experienced people around should inspire you to be better and ultimately reach your goals and be successful. We wish you the best and invite you to join the community of life-long learners in the Cubitoo Blog and the mentoring platform.
About the author: This article was created in partnership with Cubitoo. Cubitoo offers individual and company coaching via personalized 1-on-1 sessions and group workshops on communication, productivity, management, and more. Their mission is creating productive and happy companies by bringing out your inner leader and making them shine brightly! Learn more and start your own growth journey at https://cubitoo.com/coaching.