I don’t remember much about school and didn’t enjoy it there. My education started afterwards, in the Army and then around the world in different roles. I’m lucky some of these roles have been to coach and train other people. For instance I was UK training manager at WPP. I’m luckier still that I’ve been coached and trained by some amazing people who have helped me learn, grow and prosper in my life and career. Nobody does it by themselves.
You might be flying one minute and then life and career comes juddering to a halt through no fault of your own. It’s just the way of the world. Or you develop personal problems… a midlife review perhaps. Anybody’s life can be blown off track. Who helps you to weather the storm and get your life and career back on track? Who will talk honestly with you about your next steps?
I’ve been helped hugely by a few amazing coaches and mentors since I returned to the UK ten years ago. There was Mike Warren, positive and hugely experienced who helped me with structure after I had been in a warzone for too long. Paul Andrews, positive and with a fantastic breadth of vision when I first got into business in the UK. There was Ollie Holloway, positive and brimming with ideas when I made the transition back to London. There was Chris Simpson, positive and an expert on business and entrepreneurship.
So I have six tips to help you choose a coach or mentor when you decide you need some help.
Did you notice I wrote all 4 of my coaches were hugely positive? Their optimism isn’t an act. On the contrary, it’s a part of their personality. Having a positive ‘can-do’ attitude is a hugely beneficial element of working with a coach. It must be grounded in reality of course with a knowledge of the details, but also a vision of the big picture.
Ideally your coach will have the experience and insight to help you avoid making mistakes that will cost you time and money. So what real-life experiences have they been through in their life and career? This makes it sensible to choose someone older, who has learnt from their failures and successes and can share that knowledge with you in a coherent way. If they have their own system do they use actually use it?
If they have been a coach for a long time, how useful is their knowledge and in which fields? If they are newer what is their reason for becoming a coach and what are people saying about them? Check out their social media like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to see what their customers have said about them. Check out their testimonials and other social proof. Watch their videos on Vimeo and YouTube.
What tools and techniques can you coach share with you? Does he/she have a useful system to help you, so you know what you’re getting and can assess the quality? Has he/she written a book? Can your coach tap into his/her network to help you open doors, for instance with introductions to some of his/her longstanding contacts?
You want someone as a coach/mentor who will be honest with you and even challenge some of your ideas: not just agree with you. After all, the type of thinking that got you to your current situation won’t get you to the fix. You have to change your thinking and your coach/mentor should help you to do so. So it helps if your coach has a respectable breadth of experience.
This is about you, not them. A great coach/mentor will listen actively to you and remember what you say. They can repeat it back to you weeks or months later to show you how far you’ve travelled. He/she won’t let you fade away after the sessions are over. Despite being busy and life getting in the way he/she won’t let you fade away and might indeed become a friend for many years. Choose someone who will help you find you path to success and who will enjoy sharing your journey along it.