Having been a Managing Director, Owner, CEO and various combinations thereof means I have had times when I have found reaching out for advice immensely helpful. There have been times when things have been difficult, or exciting, or scary, and I’m familiar with that split of standing tall and re-assuring everyone that the plan is clear, the danger is controlled, and the potential is within you grasp – whilst internally feeling a tad uneasy that in fact you are not at all sure you know what the right answer is. At those times I was fortunate enough to have built relationships with one or more external and experienced mentors or coaches who I could use to get my thoughts straight. They rarely gave me answers – but I cannot recall a time when I came away from a meeting or call with them where I didn’t have confidence in an action plan.
As a Leader, it can be hard to find someone to talk to confidentially who is independent, objective and gets what you’re on about. As a Leader, it’s usually good to discuss matters with your team – but sometimes there are matters that you just cannot yet discuss openly without undue disruption. Your family and friends may well be hugely supportive – but may not really understand the intricacies of your business – and you may feel uneasy asking for the sort of sounding board you need.
Sometimes you may want to chat through an idea, or a challenge, or to share thinking – with someone who, to a certain extent, has experienced your journey and may have ideas, contacts, experiences or know-how that can shortcut a challenge. Sometimes you need someone to give you an honest, warts’n’all reaction.
I’m a complete advocate of mentoring and coaching, having employed such in my own businesses and in my life for the last 30 years – whether through brilliant coaches, wise mentors, challenging Non Execs, or networking groups such as the Institute of Directors and Vistage. I would encourage you to leverage such support yourself and I would be pleased to have a conversation to see whether I might be a good fit for what you want.
Support That Makes a Difference
Mentoring and coaching are often seen as similar and interchangeable, though some consider coaching to be more specific, and mentoring to be more on-demand and far-reaching. In some ways, it is slightly academic. My experience is that the activity evolves flexibly within a relationship, though if you would like to define further what you are looking for, the table below may help.
Ongoing relationship that can last for a long period of time
Can be more informal and meetings can take place as and when the mentee needs some advice, guidance or support
More long-term and takes a broader view of the person
Mentor is usually more experienced and qualified than the ‘mentee’. Often a senior person in the organisation who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities
Agenda is set by the mentee, with the mentor providing support and guidance to prepare them for future roles
Relationship generally has a set duration
Generally more structured in nature and meetings are scheduled on a regular basis
Short-term (sometimes time-bounded) and focused on specific development areas/issues
Coaching is generally not performed on the basis that the coach needs to have direct experience of their client’s formal occupational role, unless the coaching is specific and skills-focused
The agenda is focused on achieving specific, immediate goals