Too often in life we ‘go it alone‘ or at least without much experience or preparation.
When I think back, there were many major life events where I didn’t have a clue yet jumped in:
- My first day at a new High School at age 16
- Watching my parents drive away after dropping me at college
- Backpacking in Europe on $10 p/day (before smart phones and GPS)
- Deciding on my career
- Bringing home my daughter from the hospital
- Starting my own business
My list could go on. All too often I travelled blind. The good news – I made it with minimal scars and I don’t think I did major damage to others!
The bad news – I did things the hard way (read – “wrong” way). While I’m blessed and fortunate, I could have (and should have) done things easier and smoother.
What about you? I bet you have your share of scars, stories and near misses. Are you the kind of person who tends to go it alone and figure it out as you go?
The thing is – why do you (or I) do it? In today’s era of information overload, why don’t we get help? Think about it – you are playing with “real bullets.” You are making major decisions about your career and your life. You aren’t just deciding where to go on vacation.
While it has taken me longer than it should have, I finally realized the power of a Mentor and a Coach. In fact – I have both. This post is trying to convince you to do the same!
The first challenge is to identify your flat spots. The areas in need of mentoring or coaching. I have plenty so that step was easy! In essence, you are creating the agenda for a coach or mentor.
The second step is finding someone who can say “been there/done that.” Learn from those who have the skills you’re missing. Utilize a sounding board to listen and offer perspective, feedback, alternative perspectives and/or challenge. When the stakes are high it can differentiate between a Journey that succeeds or doesn’t.
Consider the difference between a Coach and a Mentor. It’s important you appreciate each such that you select what is better for you.
Let’s compare and contrast:
|A Coach||A Mentor|
|Who does it?||Can be internal, external or even your boss.||Generally not your boss, but can be internal or external.|
|Who Sets Direction & Content?||Coach tends to drive the goal setting and process. They identify & build your flat spot/s.||You drive the process; you set goals and have input on process (with Mentor)|
|What’s the Focus?||Tends to be short-term; often focuses on specific skills.||Often longer-term; takes time to develop your overall capacity/perspective.|
|What do they do?||Gives feedback, offers ideas & techniques, encourages, teaches.||Gives feedback & encouragement too, but offers insights, experience and perspective as well.|
|What’s the timeframe?||Shorter – often 3 to 12 months.||Longer – can be 1 or 2 years (or more)|
|When do you use each?||When you need to learn/improve something specific; move from a to b||When you need perspective, ideas, knowledge, experience and a sounding board.|
Call to Action:
- Take a look at where you are in your life and career. Think ahead to the challenges and opportunities you anticipate in moving toward your dreams. Think about the skills/abilities you need to hone and/or the perspective and support needed. Start to target what could help make the Journey both easier and more efficient.
- With your list in hand – think about whether you need a coach or a mentor. It could be both. Finally, get resourceful – find ways to locate and retain the support you need. You’ll find there are more resources available than you thought – they have just been waiting for you to look! In fact – you should consider coaching or mentoring others as well.
We don’t need to go it alone – find support, skill and perspective – you’ll be glad you did! I sure am.
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