When looking at professional sports teams the amount of coaches are growing. A head coach, and offensive coach, a defensive coach and a coach for goalies are common in many sports. In the same way we need professional coaches to play at the highest levels in our professional careers.
At any point in your career you use coaches in different ways. You get coached and ask for coaching from your immediate manager. You have a dedicated mentor who you give you development tasks you execute towards. You might have a life coach helping you to put together both the private and professional part of your life.
The following summarizes my experiences from mentoring:
- Mentoring is a two way thing, you learn from your mentor and you learn from your mentees. If not you are leaving valuable experiences on the table.
- You should have a contract with your mentor, where you both clarify the expectations you put on each other.
- Depending on which stage you are in your career you might need more than one mentor, with different experiences.
Working with professional coaches is in most cases a positive experience. You get pushed to move your own targets and aspirations beyond what you think is possible. You set crisper goals for your professional life. You put in place changes where you have no own personal experience but are comfortable in deploying ideas proven by others. And last but not least you get an opportunity to discuss details on the price to pay for pursuing your goals. The latter is the most important for most of us. There is always a price to pay to play at a high level.
An important analogy with sports coaching is athletes work with one or a few things at a time. By learning and practicing a few things at a time you are increasing the odds for reaching to the next level. When applying this to your professional career I suggest you pick 1 or 2 areas to improve. Select the ones you and your mentor and manager suits best right now to balance development needs with business needs. Put in 60-90 days of efforts into each area to secure you take your game to the next level. A professional golfer don’t change swing, putting stroke and work on their mental game at the same time. Excellence in bigger areas comes from focus on improving few areas, and latter add on new ones.
This Digital Mentor project is about insights from building new businesses, inside established organizations. You already have the mentors you need in the real world. You are looking for how to develop skills in areas outside where your real life mentors have theirs core capabilities. This complement requires more from you as an individual as I cannot interact with you in real-time. You can only get ideas to work with suggestions and for more support through questions and suggested extra reading.
Good questions to work with in this area are:
- Do my mentor and I have the same idea what our mentor/mentee relationship should be like? – If not you are leaving value on the table.
- Can my mentors coach me in all areas where I want/need to grow? – If not you might want to consider a digital mentor for parts of your challenges.
- Who is role model today for the person I aspire to become? – He or she might be your next mentor.
For extra reading on the digital mentoring subject I suggest:
- The emergence of e-mentoring [ARTICLE] – by CNN
- Meet your virtual mentor [ARTICLE] – by Forbes
- Who’s got your back [BOOK] – by Keith Ferrazzi
The biggest difference between sports and business life is you are choosing your coaches. Make sure you have tried to get the best you can and do not let lack of coaching be the thing holding you back from fulfilling your goals.