I believe the following 5 elements are critical in helping you get the most out of your mentor/coach investment.
- Business Experience – What experience does the mentor have in owning and operating their own business – there are many out there who might have completed a course or working in a corporate environment, but have they really had experience in running the show? Things like hiring and firing, talking to the bank manager, getting out of bed when you have the flu and pushing yourself because you know you need to be there, and not just take a day off? Understanding that feeling of isolation and frustration of having no one else to talk too – and finally, knowing that the buck stops with you – it’s your business and your responsibility, and you are totally responsible for the financial well-being of your family and responsible for all the people who work with you.
- Communication and Empathy – can they communicate to you in a manner that is easy to understand, and not talk down to you. Often I hear of mentors who “have all the answers” and they don’t take the time to appreciate your situations. Don’t get me wrong, there are times in the mentor relationship where the mentor needs to be critically honest with their feedback to you, and sometimes give you the “boot” to move to the next level. Communication style is very important, and you don’t need to be sorting through a heap of trendy cliches that just confuse and are designed to make them look good.
- Structure and Process – Every good mentor/coach will be able to tailor the mentoring solution to your needs, but it is also important to have a defined structure to work within. The concept of “catching up and having a coffee” might sound very trendy and attractive – but will it achieve your business goals? If your mentor is offering a defined structure the identifies achievable, goal focussed activities, that drive towards the business goals you have set, then you are well on the way to improving your business success. Ask how will the mentor relationship work, what contact will we have, and what processes will you use? One of our clients used a business coach a few years back – it started great, regular meetings at their office with follow-up emails and phone calls, then the meetings started to get postponed, then it changed to only phone calls, then the calls were from the local coffee shop whilst the coach was walking his dogs, and ordering coffee…..not a conducive to achieving outcomes – and not professional. The mentor should be focused on your needs and not their lifestyle.
- Support – Sometimes you will need support that is outside the experience of your mentor – so it is important to understand what additional support the mentor will bring to the table. Do they have other team members or associates that can assist, or that you can be referred to? And when a problem arises, maybe later in the evening, or earlier in the morning, or on the weekend, and you just need a quick 5-minute call to clear your mind and focus on solving the problem, will they be there? If you leave a message, how long will it take them to get back to you? will your emails be promptly answered? And ask the question, “what if it isn’t working for me?” What options do you have – cancel the contract, refund, another mentor, change of structure?
- Values – Lastly, are your values aligned? Values are those things that are important to you – those intangible things that make your business different, and you, as a person, who you are. You might have heard the old adage, “ensuring we are all rowing in the same direction”. If your values aren’t aligned, then it will be very difficult for you to work together and achieve the business outcomes that you are seeking. Ask your mentor what is important to them, profit? family? free time? growth? helping people? Make up your own list based on your values, and see how it lines up.