I’ve noticed some common pitfalls and mistakes that people make starting out in mentoring with me and others. I want to dispel some rumors about working with mentors, and help you make the most of your mentoring experiences. That involves cutting out these three common mistakes.
You are in good company if you have made any of these mistakes. I’ve done it, I know others that have done it. It does not make us bad people. However, knowing (and avoiding!) these mistakes is crucial to getting the best return on your investment in mentoring and coaching.
#1: Not knowing what you want to work on
Many people are sold on the idea of building a better life, but they lack any specifics of what they really would like to work on. They can imagine a life of luxury and ease, where they get to play all day with all the worldly possessions and money they could ever need. Of course it sounds great, but it lacks substance. It lacks any foundation in reality. It lacks any details that you could actually work toward right away.
Don’t get me wrong, having a vision of where you want to be in the future is critically important to creating the life of your dreams. And I’m not saying the life of your dreams cannot be attained. What I am saying is that you need to know the details of your dreams if you ever hope to be able to create it in your life.
One of the first questions I ask a new mentee is, “How can I help you?” If you don’t know the answer to that question right away, then you aren’t ready for a mentor. If you are hoping a mentor has the answer for you, then you are living a passive lifestyle. Stop giving others control over your destiny!
You need to decide right now what you want to work on, and that will then lead you to selecting the right mentor to help you on that quest. Seek out a mentor that specializes in the area in which you need help. If you are looking to start a business, find a mentor that’s good at starting business and can help walk you through that process. If you are in a business and you need better marketing or sales, find a mentor that has experience marketing and sales. If you want to understand and work with your computer better, find somebody who has computer experience and can help you work through the technical aspects of that.
There are plenty of mentors out there that are more than willing to help you. Find one that has the skillset, background, and expertise to coach you through your need.
#2: Believing a mentor can “fix” you (or somebody else)
Another common mistake is people think a mentor is just there to fix them (or worse, their spouse, child, neighbor, etc.). If you believe something is wrong with you, then you should probably be seeking appropriate professional, counseling or medical assistance. Mentors are not counselors, doctors, or therapists (though some of those may offer mentoring and empowerment techniques as part of their practice). We do not diagnose, prescribe, treat, or cure any diseases, aliments, or anything of that sort.
Our job is to assist you in your own quest by offering guidance, tips, and techniques to help you. We pose questions to help you think differently, challenge limiting beliefs, and open new possibilities and understanding. We teach through our own experiences and those of our clients. We offer our support and encourage you to be accountable.
Ultimately, you (and everybody else) have to choose to change from within. That is a gift given to every human on this planet: agency. Some people are ready to change, and others are not. I am happy to open up possibilities and lay them out in front of you, but you are the one that has to take the action to do something different and get a new result, or do the same thing you’ve always done and get the same result you’ve always settled for.
#3: Believing a mentor knows everything
Nope. We don’t know everything. I’m happy to announce that fact to the world, because I don’t ever want someone to believe that I know more than I actually do. I may have a lot of training and experience in some areas of life, and I may be good at many things, but I also am fallible. I make mistakes. Things that have worked for me may not always work for you. So don’t take everything I say as the final word. I encourage you to do your own research, have a discussion of differing points of view, even contradict me.
If something isn’t working for you, discuss it with your mentor. Often there are small tweaks or alternatives that might work better in certain situations. Or maybe you need to approach something from a different angle, or by using alternate techniques. And don’t get mad if your mentor doesn’t know the answer to your question right away.
I risk letting out a top-secret mentoring technique here, but it turns out that some of the best answers to your questions are actually inside of you. A good mentor will typically coach you through the process of answering your own question. It may not be so direct, but we pose questions to help your own mind dig into its subconscious for answers it already knows but just can’t see right away. We help guide your thoughts to uncover the greatness that already exists inside you.
I want people to see me as a somebody who has an alternate, outside perspective. I want people to see me as somebody who can guide them to the answers they already have within themselves. I want people to see me as having valuable life experience – techniques, tricks, and hacks to help navigate the path through life.
When you are ready to hire your next mentor, I hope you avoid making these same mistakes that I have made. Know what specific help you are seeking. Keep an open mind and choose in to the actions that will get you closer to your goals. Work with your mentor when things seem off, and be patient with them (and yourself) when seeking answers. You’ll be glad you did.