For over 30 years, I’ve been blessed to have been both informally and formally mentored; I have mentored and/or coached others for over 20 years now. When mentoring is executed well, there’s nothing better; once you’ve experienced it, you’ll never want to be without. Selecting the right mentor or coach can be daunting: by nature of the relationship, you are empowering this person to have tremendous influence in your life. Your mentor / coach doesn’t have to have it all figured out; they just need to be a little further up the road than you are. Life is too short to limp along with just a ‘good’ mentor; hold out for and track down a GREAT mentor that can help you navigate the landscape on the way to becoming the best version of yourself.
Great Formal Mentors are:
Motives matter. The best mentors are those that are Off Self, On Others. Those who have had the greatest impact in my life have been radically sold out to your success. The motto of my favorite mentor is, “Keep helping people.” Nothing worse than a mentor who just needs their ego stroked.
During sessions, your coach should be totally focused on your time together. They should be an appropriately engaged listener. You should get the sense that you are the only person in the world during this time; there is no phone, no interruptions, no computer screen; just YOU.
Great mentors hit the ground running; they’ve invested time thinking about you and this session beforehand. Now, they should be flexible enough with their planned content to meet your most relevant needs today; anything they were about to get into takes a back seat to the fire you’re putting out right now, but they should be warm at the start of the session.
Can they feel what you’re feeling? Do they accurately relate to a situation you’re working through with a similar time in their life? Better, as they explore with questions and actively listen, can they emote feelings you weren’t even aware you had?
Trust is earned. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to trust someone who asks me all about me, but isn’t willing to get as naked emotionally with their stuff. How about their shortcomings and mistakes? Beware the mentor who has never failed or suffered loss.
Are they someone you want to be like? You don’t have to agree on everything, but your foundational philosophies and presuppositions should be aligned, or a breakup down the road will be inevitable.
Some mentors are available once a week; others only have time for one call a month. You need to determine what kind of availability you’re looking for. Occasionally, when it’s formal / paid mentoring, this is driven financially: how much can you invest into tailored personal growth? From there, does your mentor aggressively seek time to connect with you? I love it when my mentors say, “Let’s set up our next time before we go.”
Can your mentor adjust their style when you share what you’ve liked about a certain call? If something rubbed you the wrong way during a session, bring it to them; the best mentors will adjust and meet you where you’re at.
When we get together, the conversation is two-way, but very much about you and your needs. Your mentor should be emotionally stable enough to see your situation with clarity, not projecting their own mess into your world.
What lessons have they learned from their mistakes along the way? Can they walk you through how they got through? How about their wins? Can they share nuggets without bragging?
Does your mentor have a mentor too? If they are pouring into you, they had better have someone rejuvenating and pouring into them. Also, mentoring often acts as a mirror; objective as mentors try to be, much of the advice given is also applicable to them, too. Are they learning and growing with you?
Great mentors never make you feel inadequate or weak; instead, they inspire, encourage and empower. Even if they don’t have a fiery personality, if you feel like running through a brick wall at the end of a session, you have an epic mentor.