posted on March 02, 2020
This post is the second of a series of three on the topic of mentorship/coaching. In parts 1 and 3, we discuss the benefits of having mentors and coaches in your life, and how to develop a productive relationship with them.
So you have decided to find a mentor or a coach. It’s easier said than done, right? What makes somebody a valuable mentor? What makes somebody an effective coach?
Finding a mentor is the easier task of the two. Since anybody who is ahead of you can be your mentor, you need to approach this search with a few precise and pragmatic goals in mind.
Look for somebody who is passionate about the things you would like to improve: things like growth, knowledge, or even someone who can share “war stories” with you. Somebody who has achieved something, but hasn’t turned cynical and is still both inspired and inspiring.
Good communication skills are something to look for in your mentor. Since you want to gain a piece of their wisdom, having effective and efficient ways to share it with you is crucial for your own growth. A very useful skill is storytelling: it allows the mentor to transform mundane knowledge into an interesting and inspiring experience. Having an inquisitive and insightful attitude is also something worth watching out for: life is full of lessons, and a skilled mentor will be able to notice and use them to help guide you.
The best place to find your mentor is through your educational or professional network. They could be your past professor or superior at work. Ask them for help in an honest and transparent way, clearly communicating your expectations.
When it comes to finding a coach, things are a bit more complicated. There are organizations grouping certified coaches, offering a wide range of mostly psychology-based services - aspects like life coaching, personal development coaching, relationship coaching, etc. Such coaches will most likely carry one or more certificates proving they have a wide curriculum of skills necessary to guide your mind on the edge of therapy and coaching. If, for instance, you want to improve your soft-skills, they will be a good companion on your journey, as they will have the tools to support your emotional and social growth. Seek out a coach that resonates well with your emotions and shares the values and principles you hold dear in your life.
Then, there are the experience-based coaches, who have been there, done that. They usually offer business, engineering, and a few other kinds of coaching. Being able to help with formulating strategies, preparing tactical plans, and overseeing processes in your personal and professional life, they will focus on the “getting things done” aspect of your growth. You won’t talk that much about your feelings with them, but would rather deep-dive into your work approach, schedule, and productive mindset. They will be able to prevent you from making costly and sometimes harmful mistakes, because they already have hands-on experience, having learned from failures in their past. Book-based knowledge will not be of much use in such cases. That’s why you should seek out such experienced veterans, who have personally tried different things.
Whichever area of your life you decide to improve with the help of mentoring and coaching, make sure you can trust the other person. After all, they will have access to the intricacies of your life and will have the opportunity to gain sensitive and confidential information. Always ask potential mentors about their values, principles, and methodologies to understand the working relationship you’re about to enter.
Professional coaches will recommend signing an official coaching agreement, spelling out your and their duties, cooperation rules, and other legal aspects of the relationship.
If you want to protect your intellectual property, you’re also entitled to request a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Many coaching agreements already include confidentiality clauses and since mentoring relationships are more about ideas and principles, you might not need to request one from your mentor.
Remember that both mentoring and coaching are working relationships, so expect your partners to be professional, honest, and transparent. They should keep your safety and value at the top of their priorities. When you are talking to one, make sure to ask them about their codes of ethics and conduct. Many experienced mentors and coaches will have their own or will have adopted a well-established code of ethics and conduct like the ones created by the International Coach Federation.
Last but not least, they should be inspiring and keep you positively engaged, making them both a safety net and a support system for your success!
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.