Who is your mentor? And what are they doing for you?

By Jonathan Reitz

January 7, 2014

I have a coach. Well, he’s really more of a mentor. But he coaches me. Although, sometimes, it really is mentoring that he’s doing…

When my coach–who is a Master Certified Coach–and I talk, I tell him what agenda I want to face. He listens, usually with a few clarifying questions to make sure he really gets what I’m talking about. He’ll ask a few questions get me thinking about some new idea or direction. Sessions almost always end with “What are you going to do?” or “How did we do working on your agenda/goal?”

Two guitarists
But there have been the occasional conversation where I just have to say to him “What advice could you give me about this?” or “What would you do in this situation?”

In those moments, I don’t want him to coach me…I want him to mentor.

Did you know January is National Mentoring Month? (Before you ask…there’s an International Coaching Week in May.

Power flows in relationship. Most of us know we can go it alone, but do the good things really come when you’re off isolated, by yourself? You know there’s a reason Jesus sent the disciples out 2 by 2, right?

Not being isolated means youve got to make a choice. You always have to CHOOSE to have someone else alongside you, walking the path, going on the journey with you.

Enter the wave of Mentors.
There’s a movement in the world to make mentors. Somewhere along the way, we realized that there is wisdom living in other people AND that we need a repeatable process to transfer wisdom from the-person-who-has-it to the-person-who-needs-it.

Everywhere you look, Radical Mentoring is a conference sponsor. The media has picked it up. Here is a recent article about finding a mentor and the site for The Mentoring Project, an interesting approach to using mentorship to address the father wound. Learn more here. Even Steve Harvey–yes, the guy from Family Feud is getting in on the mentoring wave

This is important to understand, but how does that apply to you, my high powered coach friend? How do you decide if the other person is a coach or a mentor or a coach?

How about a couple basic definitions: Mentor: A person that has specific skills that are easily observable and possibly learnable. You might be able to pick up new skills or acquire new abilities from their experience. Here’s the challenge: mentoring only works if the person being mentored can name the specific skill that they want.

Coach: A person that has learned how to draw out what’s already in another person. My conviction is that coaching is best for creative breakthroughs. It also works better when you don’t come into a particular conversation with a specific destination in mind. The mental picture I like truly alongside.

The big difference? Who’s got the answers. And how much teaching is going on. In a mentor relationship, the mentor has the know how and the experience. And it’s ready to be taught to the other person. In a coaching conversation, the person being coached has everything they need to move forward, and the coach is there to draw it out of them. No teaching involved.

Think about a music lesson. An experienced teacher would never coach growth out of a new guitarist. Imagine this exchange:

“What do you want to play?”
“Stairway to Heaven.”
“How are you going to do that?”
“I don’t know. What chord does it start with?”
“What chord do you think it starts with?”
“I don’t know. I don’t even know what key it’s in.”
“What key do you think it’s in?”

Not going anywhere helpful, is it?

But a mentor approach might sound like this:

“What do you want to play?”
“Stairway to Heaven.”
“Ok. It starts with these two chords and a finger picking pattern. Let me show you…”

And music is made.

See the difference? Which one comes more naturally to you? Which one has more power for you and your relationships? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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 This post appeared originally on www.jonathanreitz.com   For more from Jonathan Reitz, please click here.

Jonathan ReitzJonathan Reitz has a number of impressive titles at CoachNet Global (Chairman/CEO/Guy with Coffee).  Jonathan has been coaching for over 10 years and has worked with over 500 clients in the church, the non-profit sector and the business world. 

  “Coaching plays a part in the kind of leadership the world needs,” says Jonathan Reitz.  “I want to be a part of that.”

For a daily coaching question from Jonathan Reitz, follow him on Twitter @jonathanreitz  Or, you can email him at jonathan@coachnet.org or by phone at 440.550.4374.

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