Choosing the Right Mentor for You

Picking a mentor (or coach) doesn’t need to be a challenge.  Before you choose, consider these questions:

“What do I want to accomplish?” What style best matches your needs?  Make your preferences clear to those you interview with.

  • Do you want help in identifying your most pressing business challenges and help in tackling them?
  • Do you want a task master, a sounding board, or someone who helps you see new and different perspectives in approaching your issues (or a combination of these)?
  • Do you want to balance the impact of your personal life on your business, and vice versa?
  • Do you need assistance in recapturing what was once satisfying and fulfilling, or reinventing yourself for new directions?
  • Are you open to broader beneficial changes, rather than one or two specific results?  (Other changes might impact your ease or ability to achieve those specific goals.)
  • Do you want help in overcoming limitations or making personal changes that affect your business?

“Do I feel a rapport with this person?” Remember that your relationship can become quite personal, and the ultimate ability to cultivate success will depend in large part on mutual trust.

“What qualifications does this person have for doing this work with me?” Mentors have not only achieved success in business, they have helped others to do so.

Coaches can come from backgrounds that include psychology, teaching, consulting and business… or have precious little relevant background.  There are numerous training programs in this field, from different sources, of varying quality, and coaches come with minimal skills and strong skill levels. 

Here are questions that may be useful:

  • Have they just started a practice, or are they highly experienced in mentoring (or coaching) business people?
  • Do they specialize in working only with business people
  • Do they continue to invest in their own development and education?
  • Do they work with a mentor, coach, within some program or structure, in some area of their work or life?  (Do they “practice what they preach”?)

“What standards and ethics does this mentor (coach) practice?” The International Association of Personal and Professional Coaches created a code of ethics and standards for this profession, much like what exists for other, licensed professions.  Ric Lobosco co-founded the IPPCA in 1993 with another coaching pioneer, Laura Whitworth (Coaches Training Institute founder), which later merged with the International Coaches Federation, and set up most of these ethical standards.

“Does this mentor (or coach) have a specific methodology, tools, and potent distinctions I can learn, to further my own effectiveness?” Most coaches do not!  And most mentors do not.  They might ask good questions, but haven’t developed a proven and customizable system for consistent excellent results.

“Does this mentor (or coach) have a lot of common sense?” Mentors, by definition, do.  While having a mentor (or coach) experienced in circumstances precisely like yours may be comforting, a significant amount of the success derived from using a professional mentor (or coach) comes from the outsider’s trained objectivity and general practical experience.  If they have good general business experience, and effective technology for assisting you in making effective changes, they can function as a potent ally.

Rates for mentoring (and coaching) can vary greatly. If you are inclined to make your decision based on price, remember, as with most things in life, you pretty much get what you pay for.  You’re making an investment.  What would it be worth to you to have the business, new results, greater skills and better life you really long for?

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