Tips to Fast Forward Your Career:Coaching Versus Mentoring

Many people in business today are looking to improve their skills, grow both personally and professionally, and achieve peak performance in their careers.

Although there are several ways to reach those goals–formal education, workshops, on-the-job experience, training programs, role-playing, or practice and repetition–there is no substitute for one-on-one interaction with an expert. Choosing to work with a respected mentor or a coaching professional can help you reach your personal and professional goals more efficiently and effectively, increasing your effectiveness on the job and as an individual.

How can you benefit from a mentor?
A mentor often works within your field (although perhaps not at your same company) and has years of experience from which to draw. He or she is someone whose work or accomplishments you admire and want to model. The mentor relationship is built on respect and is exclusively focused on professional development and success. The mentor offers unbiased advice and shares wisdom that allows you to grow and reach your potential.

Your mentor can also help you to avoid mistakes; to steer clear of common pitfalls; and serves as an unbiased beacon with your best interest at heart. Additionally, a relationship with a mentor can help you to use two of the quickest methods for personal development: modeling and emulation.

The success principles that work for one person usually will work for another. Therefore, as you model and emulate the desired behavior(s) of your mentor, you will quickly improve your skill set, expand your professional and business knowledge and jump-start your results.

What can a coach do for you?
A coach is a professional whose work is focused on helping you manifest your inner self–your needs, passion and desire to contribute–to achieve success. The coach’s guidance is personal and specific, often providing constructive support through challenging situations such as dealing with employees or handling a merger. The results are often quick and dramatic. Coaching occurs primarily on the phone, so it is also very time-efficient.

Some of the more-common areas for guidance include helping you balance your personal and professional life, clarifying and implementing true values, and creating a plan for excelling in the workplace or moving up the corporate hierarchy.

“The decision to work with a coach is intimate, personal and totally confidential,” said Anneli Driessen, author of “Ultimate Success: Seven Secrets to Spiritually-Based Leadership.” “It is based upon the integrity of both people involved. If the client is willing to be absolutely open, honest and to offer complete disclosure, the results can be staggering.”

Driessen believes coaching is a one-to-one relationship between an individual and a professional coach who can assist you in articulating, prioritizing and achieving your goals.

Coaching can help increase the results you want in life, work, spirit and relationships, as well as to overcome obstacles, circumstances and resistance. It is not a substitute for therapy, nor for people in emotional crisis.

Rooted in sports, coaching is about creating results and reaching peak performance.

Making the best choice
Before seeking a coach or mentor, evaluate your goals and objectives. Why would you like to work with a coach or mentor? What results are you looking for? What skills do you want to learn or improve upon? In what areas would you like to see personal development and growth? What is your time frame?

Answering those questions will give you an assessment of your needs as well as indicate which professional will be best at helping you address them. Then you will be ready to seek out the most appropriate advisor.

Finding the right fit
To find and approach a mentor, make a list of the successful professionals you know through business relationships, networking efforts, family, friends and personal encounters. Does anyone stand out? If not, ask colleagues, business associates, family and friends for recommendations.

Then, approach those individuals. Let them know why you’re contacting them, what you hope to accomplish and what you can offer them. That doesn’t mean monetary payment. Your goal should be to do as much for your mentor as he or she can do for you. The relationship should be reciprocal, so let the person know you intend to give as much as you receive. You’ll find that most people will be flattered and are happy to help.

Next, review your goals with your mentor and reach an agreement on the parameters of the relationship, specifically the duration, frequency of meetings and areas of focus. Prepare an agenda for each meeting to guide the conversation and identify goals. Be certain to honor all commitments and ask, “Has anything changed?” at the beginning of each meeting. This will eliminate surprises, allow you to make adjustments and keep you on track. Consider this relationship seriously before pursuing it. Attend to it with as much care as you would your best client.

Driessen warns anyone can use the title “coach.” To guard against fraud, thoroughly research a coach’s credentials. Most credible coaches offer complimentary engagement conversations, during which you can better determine whether your working together will generate the desired outcome.

Contact a master certified coach (MCC) who is certified by the International Coach Federation. Certified coaches meet or exceed defined standards and competencies. An MCC pledges to operate within ICF Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct; can document at least 200 hours of coach-specific training and 20 hours of individual mentoring; can supply at least 10 client references; can document at least 2,500 coaching hours; and has passed a written and oral exam.

Whether you are looking for personal or career improvements, an effective coach or expert mentor could be the key to your continued success and long-term career development. Finding someone who will be the best fit for you is a matter of individual preference based on the goals you are looking to achieve.

The potential for long-term growth and improvement can be the key to success and happiness in all aspects of your life.
Roy Chitwood is an author and consultant on sales and customer service. He is president of Max Sacks International. Phone: (800) 488-
4629. Web site: E-mail: