Your Best Coach

I write from time to time on the importance of having a coach or a mentor. The best mentors show you what to do and how to do it. They don’t do it for you.

At some point all successful people did something to make themselves a success. They likely had a coach or mentor but they had to make the effort to act on the advice they received. THEY HAD TO ACT THEMSELVES!

Taking action to accomplish something requires a whole different kind of coach. It requires a “self-coach.” That would be you!

At some point you must push yourself. You must accept responsibility for your actions and decisions. What you’re taught can’t help you if you don’t apply it. The best advice in the world falls flat if you don’t use it.

If you do nothing then nothing is exactly what you should expect in return.

If you’re a good self-coach then you’re setting goals for yourself. Long-term, medium-term goals and short-term goals. Those short-term goals can be daily or even hourly. As an excellent self-coach you turn large, seemingly insurmountable tasks into a series of smaller tasks that you can accomplish on a daily or weekly basis.

That old city in Italy wasn’t built in a day and neither is long-term success. Doing a little each day will most definitely help you achieve a lot over time.

That’s the best thing about being/having a great self-coach…they are with you every day, all day.

The challenge with your self-coach, or your inner-coach, or whatever you want to call it, is the same as it is with a mentor or outside coach. You MUST listen to their advice and then act on it.

A single pound of action is worth more than a ton of good intentions. One thing highly successful people have in common with less successful people is that they both have good intentions. What most often separates the highly successful people from the less successful is that the most successful people act on those intentions.

So follow this coaches advice and ACT!

Your Greatest Competition

I like competitive people. I like people who enjoy winning. I’d hire people who hate losing. The desire to compete creates the opportunity to succeed. 

 

While the desire to complete is key understanding who your competition is can be even more important. Successful competitors believe their competition is some other person or some other organization. The most successful competitors know that their greatest competitor is the person they see in the mirror each morning. 

 

Too many people try to be better than someone else. The most successful people worry less about other people and more about themselves. They focus on what they can control and the only thing they have complete control over is themselves. They work to be better tomorrow than they are today. They know that even if it’s only a little better that a lot of littles add up to something big. 

 

The most successful people invest in themselves to ensure consistent improvement. They read more than less successful people. They find training, not just to shore up their weak spots but to further strengthen their strengths. 

 

The most successful people have a coach or a mentor because they know a second sets of eyes, a second opinion and a second set of experiences can make a world of difference in competitive situations. 

 

To be more successful don’t worry about what someone else is doing. You have little to no control over them. Focus on yourself, focus on what you can control. Focus on making yourself a little more effective each day. 


Be better tomorrow than you were today because all those tomorrows create for you the opportunity to put distance between yourself and any competitors not named you.


The Essential Qualities of a Mentor

I write often on the importance of having a mentor. That invariably leads people to ask me what to look for in a good mentor. I’ve never actually written on the characteristics of a good mentor but this post will address that very topic.

 

First off the fact that people ask about what makes a mentor good should be a clue that not all mentors are created equal. Some are better than others are some are actually bad. Not bad people mind you, just bad as a mentor.

 

It would seem obvious that a mentor should be smart. What’s far less obvious is that a mentor must know why they are smart. A good example comes from the world of golf. If you watch golf on TV you see some amazing shots made week in and week out. Pro Golfers are the very best at what they do. I’ve been fortunate to know a few and play an occasional round with them. 

 

They are way better than me (understatement of the year) and I marvel at what they can do on a golf course. But most of those professional golfers aren’t much help when it comes to teaching me how to hit the shots like they do. They cannot transfer their knowledge of how to hit a golf ball to me. They know what works for them but they can’t explain why it works in a way that makes it possible for me to duplicate. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t great golfers, it means that they aren’t great teachers, or mentors.

 

A golf teaching professional is a very different story. While they may not be blessed with the skill to play top level golf on a weekly basis they do know what it takes to hit shots required to score well. They know why some shots work and why others don’t. Plus, they know how to transfer that knowledge to the people they teach. They are great teachers and mentors.

 

Not all successful people make good mentors. A good mentor will invest a fair amount of time thinking about not only what they did to become successful but why they did it. They not only know what works, they know why it works. You can get the “what” from a book but the “why” most often comes from a mentor. 

 

Good mentors spend a considerable amount of time in self-reflection. When looking for a mentor make certain that the person you select knows themselves well. They must be able to explain both the what and the why of their success. 

 

If you can’t trust your mentor then they cannot mentor you. Pick a mentor that you can trust with your deepest secrets and concerns. There should be no doubt that your mentor will not, under any circumstances, share your mentoring discussions with others. 

 

Your mentor must be courageous enough to tell you the truth even when the truth is less than pleasant. Hopefully your mentor will have the human relations skills to not crush you with the truth. Pure unvarnished truth may sting for a bit but it shouldn’t leave a lasting scar. You do not want a mentor who is so concerned with protecting your feelings that they forget about protecting your future. 

 

The number one reason that mentoring relationships fail is that one or both sides of the relationship underestimate the amount of time required for a successful mentoring relationship. Mentoring is serious stuff. 

 

The most important thing a committed mentor can give you is their time. They may have the best of intentions but if they don’t also have time to commit to you then it will not work. Ask upfront how much time your prospective mentor is willing to invest in you. If they are serious about helping you they shouldn’t be at all offended by the question. 

 

Ask also if that commitment includes regularly scheduling time with you on their calendar to make sure those good intentions become great mentoring sessions. 

 

Everyone, absolutely everyone can benefit from a true mentoring relationship. Regardless of your stage in life, your level of success or the goals you are pursuing, you will be better off with a mentor than without. 


That’s assuming of course that they are the right mentor for you.

The Limits of Good Mentoring

I’ve been truly blessed throughout my life to have great mentors. I knew they were great mentors because every now and then they would say “I don’t know, you should probably ask someone else.” 

 

I’ve written several times on the importance of having a mentor. No matter your age, your current level of success, your title or your position within your organization, you will do better tomorrow if you have a mentor today. What’s more you’ll be even better off if you have multiple mentors. 

 

Here’s why. 

 

One of the things that make a great mentor is that they know what they don’t know and they didn’t pretend that they know it. 

 

You can have a mentor who is a brilliant business strategist but not so capable with their people skills. You can have a managerial genius as a mentor but that doesn’t mean they are great leadership coaches. 

 

Those “gaps” don’t mean they are a bad mentor. It’s when they attempt to fill those gaps with guesses, rumors, and plain old BS that they become a poor mentor. I suppose there are mentors who do have a vast amount of knowledge across a very wide spectrum of skill sets and situations…..I just haven’t found one.

 

I’d much rather have a mentor, and much much rather be a mentor, who occasionally has the confidence to say “I just don’t know,” and “I don’t want to steer you wrong so I can’t answer that.” 

 

This may sound a bit counterintuitive but if you have a mentor that has an answer for every question and advice for every single situation then it is very likely you don’t have the right mentor for you. 

 

Having more than one mentor helps overcome the limits that all truly good mentors have. When you have multiple mentors you are more likely to have a mentor with deeper experience in the area(s) where you need help. When you have mentors who look at the same situation but view it from different angles you’re provided with a deeper understanding of what you’re dealing with and that makes a successful outcome much more likely.

 

If you don’t have a mentor today then find one today. Find someone who you feel is successful, someone who cares enough about people to share their “library of experience,” and someone who is willing to invest a part of themselves in your success. 


When you find someone with those characteristics then you have found a mentor and when you’ve found a mentor you’re that much closer to finding an even greater level of success.


Can You Change You?

Most everyone I know says they would like to be better at something tomorrow than they are today. 

 

That “something” varies widely depending on the person. Some of that desired improvement may be work related, for other people it’s more personal. But regardless of what that “something” happens to be here is an absolute fact: Improvement, any improvement is not possible without change. 

 

People who want improvement but refuse to accept change are hoping for something more but are unlikely to ever see it. People who embrace change, or even better, drive change, have a chance to see consistent improvement, assuming of course that the change is the right change. 

 

Here’s my problem, I love change, I know of many many people and many more things that would benefit from change….I’m just not one of them. 😉

 

I struggle to embrace change that has a direct impact on me! I do not think I’m alone in that challenge because change is hard. We tend to, at least subconsciously, associate change with loss. We are giving up the familiar and moving to something unknown or something we are not sure of. 

 

I remember as a young salesperson calling on a customer who had equipment that was frequently breaking down. I was selling equipment that was far more reliable and yet the customer was reluctant to make a change. As I asked questions to uncover the reason for his reluctance he finally told me that while his equipment was always breaking down he knew how to fix it. He wasn’t sure he could fix mine if it did ever break down. The devil he knew was better than the angel he didn’t. 

 

For him change meant giving up the knowledge he had acquired through the years on his product, flawed as it was. Psychologically the benefit of no longer having to fix his equipment couldn’t outweigh his feeling of loss. 

 

We all face those psychological limitations when it comes to self-improvement. It’s tough to accept change so very often we tell ourselves that we are “good enough.” We rationalize why change isn’t really needed in our lives. We need help to overcome those limitations because way too often it’s simply too hard to change ourselves.

 

In this season of commencement addresses let me tell you what I wish someone had told me years ago at my own graduation. I think this single piece of advice could do more to change the trajectory of the lives of this year’s graduating classes than perhaps any other piece of advice.

 

Here it is: get a mentor. 

 

Find someone who you trust enough to listen to, a person who cares enough about you to be honest with you. Find a person who will invest real time with you and commit to invest your time with them as well. 

 

No matter how well you did in school, no matter how smart you believe yourself to be, no matter what path you’ve chosen for your life, you WILL have a greater chance at success if you are open to accepting change in your life. A mentor can help you do that. Bigly!


One more thing, no matter where you might be in your career, no matter how much success you’ve already experienced, you will be better off with a mentor than without. Everyone does better with a mentor, everyone. 


Ditch the Resolutions

Want more success in 2017? Then ditch the New Years Resolutions and replace them with a mentor. 

There is so much evidence that New Years Resolutions have no lasting impact that I won’t even bother with explaining why they are almost always a complete waste of time.

There is also ample evidence that having a mentor does have long term impact on the mentees future success. If you truly want greater success in the coming year then your first step is to get yourself a mentor. 

I’ve been blessed throughout my career with mentors who cared as much about me as they cared about their own success. That perhaps is the single greatest attribute a mentor must have, they really need to care about the person they are mentoring.

I get asked on average at least once a week to mentor someone and one of my biggest regrets is that I have to say no. I’m mentoring a few people already and I couldn’t truly be effective mentoring more. Mentoring is serious stuff and requires a serious time commitment on the both of both the mentor and the mentee. 

If you’re serious about having a mentor in 2017 then look for a person who is willing to share their knowledge, skills and expertise. Sadly, too many people in organizations see passing along their knowledge and skills to be a risk to their job security. In fact, nothing is further from the truth. If you have the ability to help others grow then you will always be needed somewhere.

Your mentor needs to be a person who will take a personal interest in you and who desires a personal relationship with you. They must invest themselves in your success. If your mentor frequently needs to cancel or change the time of your meeting then you likely need a different mentor. 

Your mentor needs to be someone who cares enough about you to offer you constructive feedback. They have to have the courage to potentially tell you some things that you may not want to hear. They also need to have the compassion and communication skills to tell you it in such a way as to allow you to hear it, understand it, believe it, and act upon it. 

A good mentor is a person who sets a good example. They regularly achieve their own goals, they are respected by others and they demonstrate successful habits. They “walk their talk” while challenging their mentees to do the same. They never ask someone else to do something that are unwilling to do themselves.

Regardless of your age or level of success you’ll be better off in 2017 if you have a mentor. A real mentor. Formalize a mentoring relationship with someone who can help you grow personally and professionally and see for yourself the difference it will make in your level of success in the New Year!

Why You Need a Mentor

I am darn near perfect. The only thing that keeps me from just outright declaring my perfection is that I am also very humble. If other people could see my perfection the world would indeed be a better place!

I remain perfect pretty much right up to the time someone who cares about me talks some sense into me… then I see a little different me.

You don’t see yourself the way others see you. You may not think you’re perfect but because you’re human you likely hold yourself to a somewhat different standard than you hold others. It is much easier to state your principles than it is to live them.

The person that talks some sense into me is called a mentor. (or my wife but that’s a different post) They are a truth teller. They see my world from the outside, without the fog of ego, defensiveness, shame, and the need to be liked.

They see me the way others see me and they paint me a picture so I can see it too. 

That helps me be a better me. If you want to be a better you then you need a mentor. If you don’t want to call them a mentor then call them a coach. You can call them whatever you like but they need to care enough about you to invest in your growth by being honest with you. Even when “honest” hurts. It’s okay to be friendly with them but they don’t necessarily have to be a friend, it might be better if they weren’t. 

You can hire a professional coach or select someone that you admire and that most people see as successful… however you define successful. Whether your coach/mentor is paid or not that best way to repay them is by following their advice. Listen, REALLY LISTEN, to what they have to say, linger on their words until they sink in. If you’ve picked the right mentor then they are telling you the truth. If they are telling you the truth then you NEED to listen. 

Regardless of your current level of success you will be better off with a mentor. Even if you’ve reached the pinnacle of your career you will be better off with a trusted sounding board. 

A coach or mentor will not tell you what your principles are, they just help you live them.