I'm Already A Coach - Do I Need A Mentor?
As a life coach, you’ve learned how to help others achieve their goals. You’ve acquired the techniques, training, and expertise necessary to support your coaching clients in moving from insight to action.
You’ve no doubt also applied these same coaching skills to your own life. After all, learning how to be a life coach is in itself a journey of personal growth and transformation!
If you’ve already got the skills to coach yourself and others, you may be wondering: Do I really need outside support?
What can a mentor bring to the table?
In order to answer that, let’s start by considering the differences between coaching and mentoring. According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF):
- COACHING is a thought-provoking and creative partnership that inspires clients to maximize their personal and professional potential, often unlocking previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity, and leadership.
- MENTORING is a relationship in which the mentor possesses a significant level of experience that the mentee wishes to learn from.
In other words, a mentor is someone who’s further along the professional path that you’re now walking. Your mentor is a person who’s willing to take you under their wing, sharing what they’ve learned and experienced in service to your growth and development.
Another key distinction to be aware of? Life coaches don’t give advice. In contrast, mentors can and often do.
What this means is that a mentor can step outside of the coaching framework to actively help guide and shape the trajectory of your coaching career.
What Kind Of Mentor Do You Want?
There are two types of mentorship that can be of value to you as you advance in your life coaching career.
1. Personal Advisor
You can cultivate mentors across all areas of your life, not just in your coaching business. In fact, successful coaches often have several mentors!
Mentoring relationships are formed in a variety of ways.
Often they arise organically as a result of connections that already exist in your life, such as with a boss or more experienced colleague who takes up the role of trusted advisor over time.
Others are sought out with intention, such as reaching out to coaches you admire and asking for their guidance.
Mentorship isn’t confined to the business world, either!
Some people have a spiritual mentor, or mentors who are connected to their hobbies. A mentor can be found in any area of life where you’d like the guidance and support of someone with more experience in that arena.
Some mentorships arise informally, with your mentor offering guidance and support as a natural part of your relationship. Others may be entered into more formally, and can be contracted for a mutually agreed upon fee (just as you would when working with a coach).
2. Mentor Coaching
If you’re pursuing an ICF credential, “mentor coaching” means something very specific. Working with a mentor coach is also a requirement toward earning your ACC.
According to the ICF, Mentor Coaching consists of coaching and feedback in a collaborative, appreciative and dialogued process based on an observed or recorded coaching session to increase the coach's capability in coaching, in alignment with the ICF Core Competencies.
Whether you choose to pursue ICF credentialing or not, mentor coaching can be a powerful, personalized way to improve your coaching skills.
A mentor coach is someone you can turn to for ideas and feedback around handling new or challenging client situations. You can debrief coaching sessions to identify areas for growth. You might also submit recordings of your coaching sessions to your mentor for review and feedback.
5 Ways A Mentor Can Enhance Your Coaching Business
Regardless of where you are right now in your coaching career, there will always be a new hill to climb. Having someone who’s been where you’re at can help you navigate that new terrain with greater ease.
As you’re first getting started, this might take the form of a mentor who helps you clarify your focus, and strategize the steps you’d like to take to build a viable coaching practice. Once your coaching business is off the ground, a mentor can be useful in helping you discover ways to take what you’ve been doing to the next level.
All along the way, mentors can serve as powerful champions of your potential. Here’s five benefits you can expect from having mentors on your team.
Expand your vision
A mentor who’s a few steps ahead of you will see possibilities for your coaching career that you may not be aware of yet.
Identify areas for growth
Your mentor can provide useful information and feedback about additional actions you can take, or skills you can build, to achieve your professional goals.
Navigate unfamiliar terrain
Having a mentor who’s “been there/done that” can help normalize the peaks and valleys that you’re likely to encounter as you build your coaching business. An experienced mentor can bring fresh ideas to the table about how to get unstuck if you hit a rough patch!
Cultivate self trust
Just like our coaching clients, life coaches are also subject to cognitive bias, limiting beliefs, mindset challenges, and fear. A mentor will provide an unbiased perspective, which can help you see your situation and options more clearly.
Above all, a great mentor believes in you. They’ve taken the time to get to know you: your strengths, talents, dreams and aspirations. Your mentor is a cheerleader who will encourage you to set your sights higher than you might otherwise if acting alone.
How To Find A Mentor
If having a mentor sounds appealing, here’s a few steps you can take to find one that will serve you best.
Request information sessions
If there are coaches or other professionals you’d love to learn from, consider asking these people for an informational interview to learn about how they built their career. Building an initial connection in this way can help you determine if there’s the potential for a longer-term mentoring relationship.
When asking for another professional’s time, it’s important to honor their energy and expertise.
Some coaches have room in their schedule for a “pick my brain” conversation and are happy to offer it as a professional courtesy. Others cannot.
The reality is that many successful entrepreneurs - especially those with large online followings - are inundated with requests for meetings and free advice. If career guidance or mentoring is something this person might normally charge a fee to provide, be prepared and willing to compensate them for their time before making the inquiry.
Whenever you secure an information meeting, do your homework and come prepared! Know what you want to ask, and what you’re hoping to learn.
Mine your professional network
When looking for a mentor, you’ll want to choose someone whose career AND personality feel like a good fit for you. A great way to identify people you’d like to learn from is through participating in professional forums where you are likely to find those people!
Places you might get engaged include:
- Alumni network from your coach training program
- Professional groups within your niche or specialty
- Continuing education & training programs
- Your local ICF chapter
If you’re specifically interested in working with an ICF mentor coach, you can find one by searching the ICF Mentor Coach Registry.
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