The leadership expert and author John C. Maxwell says, “We all need someone to help us in our pursuit of intentional growth and the right mentor helps you take massive leaps forward.”
Even coaches need coaches. Maxwell talks about “intentional growth”. This is when you make the conscious decision to make yourself better.
One of the best ways to do this is with a mentor.
A mentor teaches you, guides you, and encourages you as a result of their experiences, knowledge, and passion. They’re a seasoned veteran who’s a little farther ahead of you on life’s journey.
Here are 6 things you can do to make mentor your mentor experience better:
- Think through picking your mentor
- Establish a good plan
- Know yourself
- Be coachable
- Do the work
- Pay it forward
Think through picking your mentor
Whoever you select needs to be passionate about developing the next generation of coaches — you. They should be excited about helping you out. If they see this mentor-mentee relationship as a chore, then they aren’t the right person for you.
They should be open, honest, and transparent about their experiences, holding little back. The mentor should be willing to offer you tangible and practical advice, honest and timely feedback, and lots of substantial encouragement.
In general, the mentor you choose should be willing and able to help you. They should have a head full of knowledge and wisdom. They should have a heart full of passion and generosity.
Establish a good plan
At times you might hang out casually with your mentor. Your sessions should be intentional, valuable, and purposeful — don’t just wing it. You’re busy and your mentor is busy. Go into each session with an idea of what you want to accomplish.
Though your mentor should take the lead in terms of providing insights, your sessions and your learning should be a collaborative endeavor. Planning each session months in advance is overkill, but having a general idea of where you’re going might be helpful. However, for each individual session, you want to have a goal for the session and develop an action plan for accomplishing it.
Focus on a specific task or action point for that particular session. Most good mentorship relationships will be long term, so you don’t have to try and cover every topic right away in the first few sessions.
Spend some time getting to know yourself. Be honest with yourself. Being self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses help you best utilize a mentor to fill in some of your gaps. A mentor will help you dive deeper into who you really are to help you become who you need to be, so you don’t need to know everything about yourself. Read that one again.
However, the more you can know before undergoing this relationship, the more ground you can cover early on. A mentor will help you tighten up your strengths, but more importantly, will help you turn your weaknesses into strengths. When you have a healthy understanding of those strengths and weaknesses to begin with, it makes the progress easier.
This might seem obvious, but admitting mistakes, making changes, or going through the growth process is never easy. Having the humility to know you’re not where you need to be is difficult. Be willing to acknowledge that you can’t maximize your potential on your own.
You need help, and that is where the mentor comes in. Utilize their experience and wisdom. It’s not about getting your way, but rather, going the right way.
Do the work
Your mentor might provide you with some assignments between sessions. When you have homework to do, make sure you roll up your sleeves, smile, and get to work. These are exercises or activities to make you better and correspond to the topic at hand.
It’s not just busy work. Don’t just get it done to check off a box. It doesn’t matter if your mentor gives you assignments to do during or after your scheduled session time, the work is designed to make you better so take it seriously.
Pay it forward
You don’t have to be old and retired before you start to mentor someone. You can find someone that’s where you once were and help them along the journey. You don’t need to know it all or have reached the finish line to help someone else out. You just need to be a little farther along or have beneficial insights.
Additionally, when you help others out or teach others, it becomes more ingrained in you. Studies have shown that when students teach other students what they’ve learned, they end up understanding more and retaining more knowledge than other students. The same would apply to you turning around and going from mentee to mentor. When you mentor someone, it’ll reinforce the principles your mentor was teaching you.
Everyone needs a coach
John Maxwell says, “A self-made leader hasn’t really made much.” In other words, you’re not an island. Life is a team sport. No matter how talented you are, you won’t always see everything. It’s hard to see the picture when you’re inside the frame.
A mentor will have conversations with you that’ll challenge your thinking and outlook on life. A mentor will encourage you to do things you never thought possible. A mentor can help you see blind spots and look at things from a different perspective. They can help you go farther, achieve more, and be better than you can on your own.
Motivational speaker J Loren Norris says, “If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before.” As a coach, you’re smart, ambitious, self-motivated, and persistent. You typically know where you want to end up but there are sometimes different ways to get there. Some routes are better than others.
When you utilize a mentor, you’re increasing the likelihood you’ll take the most effective and efficient path to your destination. Everyone needs a coach or mentor in life — even great coaches.
Jamy Bechler is the author of four books including The Captain and The Bus Trip. He is also the host of the Success is a Choice Podcast, a professional speaker, and trains organizations on creating championship cultures. Bechler spent 20 years as a college basketball coach and administrator and now works with high-level businesses and teams, including the NBA. He started TheLeadershipPlaybook.com membership community and resource center to help athletes become better teammates and more positive leaders while strengthening the culture of teams and athletic departments. Follow him on twitter at @CoachBechler or contact him at speaking@CoachBechler.com.