Here’s the thing – hiring a coach or mentor, even a bad coach or mentor, is better than no coach or mentor. Yes, you heard me right and I stand by this.
I’ve used many coaches and mentors over the years. At a critical point in my career I identified that if I was to achieve big goals and dreams then I would benefit from someone to keep me confident and accountable. And while fear of being caught out (FOCA) or making a mistake (FOMM) is a great motivator, it's not very positive. I required a different approach to confidence and accountability.
Frequently, as a recovering perfectionist (and yes, women tend to be more perfectionist than men, and yes it does hold us back) I noticed that delaying in the decision over which mentor/coach to appoint only delayed me shifting forward towards my goal. To the point now that as soon as I can see I’m wavering, feeling uncertain or procrastinating I’ll get on the phone and check in as it puts me out of my misery and moves me forward at a rate of knots – a bit like taking the plug out of the bath. If you leave the plug in halfway, the water takes longer to drain. Remove the plug entirely and the water rushes out as fast as it can go.
So over the years my results have all varied. But here’s the clincher. My results ranged from big shift to significant shift - and any shift is better than no shift when it comes to doing bigger and more important work.
Why? Because when you are working with a coach or mentor, you are the person doing the work. It’s up to you to allocate time and resources, to do the homework and commit to action. The importance you give to your work together, plus the energy you put into moving your objective forward is critical. Your mentor isn’t selling or writing for you. Your mentor isn’t negotiating on your behalf. Your mentor isn’t doing your work for you. Instead you are doing all those things while your mentor guides you through a process and holds you steady and accountable along the way.
To learn more I conducted a bunch of not very scientific interviews with a range of highly successful women and men in my life who had used a mentor and here is what they said:
1. Perfect is unattainable. But forward momentum is a catalyst for great change.
2. Done is better than not done, or perfectly half done.
3. Tomorrow never comes.
4. Action precedes clarity.
5. If I hadn’t paid and hired a coach out of my own pocket I wouldn’t be where I was today.
6. At every stage of my career journey I had another perspective and someone to keep me accountable.
Now this article might seem a little self serving but when I reflect on my own career journey here is what my swag of coaches and mentors have provided me:
- A perspective from someone who has played a bigger
- ·A perspective from someone who works with others a bit like me
- Specific time to focus on what’s important right now
- Work on the strategy, not in the strategy (or on the business, not in the business)
- Helps me define clear goals
- Gives me a helping hand (introductions, articles, resources, sounding board)
- Did I mention accountability?
- Boosted my confidence
- And the very act of paying for this service galvanises action in the right direction.
However, there are three provisos in this or you will be disappointed with the results:
- You need to respect and get along with your mentor.
- Your mentor needs to be able to build you up (not pull you down).
- Plus you need to allocate the same gravitas to the process and outcomes as you expect of your mentor.
So stop wavering, be decisive and get on out there and book a coach or mentor – and good luck with your next big project!
Fortune Magazine has been publishing articles on mentoring. Read more here.
- Is mentoring necessary for career advancement? by Teresa Briggs, vice chairman and west region managing partner at Deloitte.
- Do all employees benefit from having a mentor? by Dawn Zier, president and CEO of Nutrisystem.
- 4 things your boss won’t tell you (but a mentor will) by Penny Herscher CEO of FirstRain.
- What qualities make a good (and bad) mentor? by Karen Tegan Padir, president of application development at Progress Software.
- Why mentoring is unlike any other professional relationshipby Jenni Luke, CEO of Step Up.
- Why you don’t need a mentor to be successful by Beth Brooke-Marciniak, Global Vice Chair of Public Policy at Ernst & Young.
- What qualities should you look for in a mentor? by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.
- 4 things to consider before choosing a mentor by Camille Preston, founder of AIM Leadership.
- The most important quality a mentor should have by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.
- Why women are more likely to be mentors by Alyse Nelson, CEO and co-founder of Vital Voices Global Partnership.
- 3 reasons every employee needs a mentor by Sally Blount, Dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
- Why this AOL executive chooses her mentors — wisely by Allie Kline, CMO of AOL, Inc.