One thing I believe to be powerful in business, especially when you want to advance, is to be resourceful. Resourcefulness is seeing and understanding that you have many resources available to you. So many of us try to go it alone, but much more is possible when we have other people’s strength and wisdom to draw upon.
One of the most valuable resources you can find is a mentor. When I use the term mentor, I am referring to someone with a particular set of traits:
- Someone who has done what you want to do
- Someone who wants to help and to pay it forward
- Someone you respect and feel you can learn from
A mentor is not necessarily a coach, consultant or friend, though any of these elements might be mixed in with mentorship. A coach will work with you to attain your goals, but may not have ever been where you want to go or have worked in your industry. And a pure coach will not give you advice, where a mentor likely will. A consultant may be similar to a mentor, but usually requires a financial investment. Typically a mentor will work with you simply to see you succeed and out of a desire to advance both you and the profession. A friend can buoy you up, offer encouragement and praise, but may not know where you are going or how to get there.
I have had many mentors, but the one who worked most closely with me was Barbara Fagan of Source Point Training Company. Barbara was my teacher when I was trained as a coach. It was not until after my formal coach training ended that Barbara became what I would call a mentor. Two things happened after I graduated coach training. First, I joined Source Point as faculty for the next year’s coach training institute. And second, I started my own coaching practice.
As a new coach and faculty for Barbara’s company, she obviously was invested in teaching me how best to work with students, how to teach coaching skills and how to coach to a higher level of excellence. What was remarkable to me was the interest she showed in my business. She always made herself available to me and she had a LOT of other things she could have been doing. When the year of faculty coaching ended, I remember sitting with Barbara and the other three faculty coaches and she said to us, “I will always be available to you.” I took that seriously and as I moved away from faculty and into my full-time coaching business, I called her regularly for advice – how do I develop this training? What do I do when my client is saying X and I don’t know how best to support him? Where do I get the best advertising? What should I charge for this service? And to every question she was available and eager to assist me.
Get yourself a mentor. Look around at the people who have advanced in their professions to a place where you would like to be. Start asking these people if they would meet with you, offer you advice. Look for people you are drawn to. Notice people who help you before you even ask. Be sure to take the help that’s being offered. Often we don’t even see that it is there.
If you are a managing partner in a firm and have been practicing for 30 years, find someone who has been practicing for 40. And if you are that 40-years-in-practice managing (or retired) partner, for heaven’s sake, offer to mentor someone else.
I have owned McLaren Coaching for six years now. I have experienced a huge amount of growth in that time. I have employed a number of coaches for my own benefit. But still, when I have a tactical, procedural, or coaching business question, I call Barbara. And she always answers.