It’s almost impossible to be in business without hearing about mentoring and coaching. These days the number of business coaches seems to be growing exponentially, and around every corner, there’s someone who knows how to help you get sales, build your email lists, convert prospects into paying clients, or build your brand. A lot of it might seem overwhelming and even as a scam, but there are benefits to having mentors and business coaches that small business owners and entrepreneurs should consider.
Before we get into that, however, it’s important to take some time making a distinction between mentoring and coaching. Even though mentors and coaches both have your best interest at heart, they operate differently and you should know what to expect from each of them.
A mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser
Many entrepreneurs enjoy the thrill of getting things done, being on top of their game, and simply going it alone. Most have difficulty finding like-minded individuals in their immediate circles when they embark on the entrepreneurial journey. Yet that journey is often such a harrowing one that going it alone is the last thing you want to do. This is where mentorship comes in. Long before you can dip into your pocket to pay for advice, a mentor is there to make sense of the myriad ideas which go through your mind daily.
Mentors offer wisdom from experience
Through conversation and a relationship of mutual respect, mentors become trusted advisers, sought out for their experience. Since they have ‘been there, done that’, they can share their experiences and offer advice about what you can do, speculate about outcomes of decisions, and whether you’re thinking things through clearly.
Mentors see beyond the glam
Mentors understand the business, and they’ve been around, so they can see beyond the hype of running a company, of being your boss, of dealing with customers. As a result, they will be able to zero in on strengths and weaknesses that entrepreneurs can’t see in themselves. And since they understand you better over time as your professional relationship deepens, they can guide you through the emotions and personal development necessary to be your best self.
Mentors provide professional socialization
A key component of a mentor-style relationship is its development over time. It’s not a one-time, one-off thing. During this process of relationship development, interactions include meeting with the mentor in person, and sometimes with others. The latter creates opportunities for networking which come with the endorsement of your mentor, and that kind of referral makes an impact on future relationships.
A business coach guides business development
through structured interaction
Your relationship with a business coach different from your relationship with your mentor. Business coaches get into specifics and details and help you create an actionable plan. A business coach guides business development through structured interaction. Now, this isn’t to say that a mentor-style relationship is unstructured, but the social component of the relationship is quite different from a business coach. You’re unlikely to socialize with your business coach during informal sessions, as this relationship is more professional and guided by stated expectations and best practice. In most cases, a business coach is someone you hire to take you through steps necessary to take your business to the next level.
Coaches help you find direction
The first thing most coaches do is to find out your goals and help you chart a course to accomplish them. They help you with long, medium, and short-term goals to move you closer to where you want to be. Most importantly, coaches help you clarify your goal to ensure it’s aligned with your purpose.
Coaches keep you focused
Like mentors, coaches offer motivation and encouragement. When you encounter discouraging situations or you begin to feel like you’re losing your way, coaches help steer you back on course, but not just emotionally. A coach’s guidance is meant to be practical, hands-on, and actionable, so refocusing is an active process that ends in steps that you can take to move beyond the point at which you’re stuck.
Coaches make you accountable
Because coaches work with you to create task lists and set deadlines, they become your accountability measure. When you meet with a coach, one of the first things they ask you is “What have you accomplished between our last meeting and now?” Good coaches help you see your progress, and great coaches help you make progress.
To put it simply, a mentor is more of a big-picture and motivator who provides motivational support through sharing experiences of wisdom, while a coach is a day-by-day guide and navigator who helps you create a plan. One helps you see beyond your present situation to where you know you can be, the other helps you get there.
Now that you know some of the benefits of having a mentor and a coach, the three reasons you need to enter into these types of relationships would make a lot more sense.
Reason #1: There’s no point in reinventing the wheel if you don’t have to. Coaches and Mentors help you navigate the business through expert advice and experience, often avoiding costly pitfalls.
Reason #2: Knowing that you’re not alone on your journey goes a long way when the road to greatness gets rough. During challenges, you will feel comforted to know that there are people you can reach out to for courage and direction.
Reason #3: When you understand the benefits you’ve received, your desire to pay it forward increases, and there’s no end to the blessings which follow. Life becomes more than a self-centered affair, but a community forging toward a better world.
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Shelley-Ann Edwards-Barran is a writer, editor, writing coach, speaker, and advocate for better writing instruction. She is the CEO of WERD Coach Ltd., a company dedicated to helping writers at many levels – children, academics, authors.