Maybe you’re seeking a credential and need to fulfill your mentor coaching requirements. Perhaps, you’re looking to strengthen your skills or take your business from a part-time to a full-time practice. No matter your reason for seeking a mentor, there is one key question – How do you go about finding one?
While the idea of finding a mentor might seem overwhelming at first, breaking the process into manageable chunks will allow you find your mentor coach with less stress and more confidence!
Think About ‘What,’ not ‘Who’ Before you even begin thinking about “who” part of your mentor coach, it’s important to think about the “what”. What type of person do you want to work with? Until you know what qualities you’re looking for, you could interview all the mentor coaches in the world and not be sure you’ve found the right one. So, step one, is to get clear about your needs. Then, the main areas to examine are their experience, qualifications, methodology, and chemistry. Let’s talk first about experience and qualifications.
Defining the experience you’d like your mentor to have is the first step. After all, the VERY reason you are seeking a mentor in the first place is because of their experience. If you’re seeking an ICF credential, you will need a masterful coach who has a successful practice who has built his or her way up to MCC. How many clients do they coach? What type? You want someone who is a powerful coach in their own right.
You also want to know about their experience in mentoring, assessing and teaching coaching skills. Coaching mastery is one thing. Mentoring is a different skill set. So, ask yourself if your potential mentor meets your needs in both areas. Do they mentor coaches “on the side” or were they trained by the ICF or a coaching school to teach and asses coaches?
Also, do they have a fully thought-out program replete with resources and tools to help you succeed?
Once you know your mentor’s experience and qualifications, the next important area to think about is your learning style. Think back on past learning relationships—work or school—to reflect on the teaching styles that work best for you. Do you like to listen, reflect, and digest or do you like to dive in and work through information in a more kinesthetic way? Do you prefer someone who is laid back or do you need someone to push your boundaries to help you achieve new heights? Thinking about how you best learn will help you choose the right mentor.
Would you prefer a mentor who is strategic or someone who is flexible and creative? One or the other might drive you crazy. You need alignment in style to get the most out of the experience.
Find out how the mentoring program is structured. How long is each session? How much of it is group-based? How much is one-on-one? What you do in each session? Do you learn competencies? Practice? Both? How will your mentor give you feedback and how often? Do they provide you with real-time feedback? Written or verbal? Do you coach them or do they listen to recordings you send in to them?
Using Your Intuition to Detect Chemistry
Interview at least three mentors and start with the basic questions about the coach’s background, training, and credentials to find out if they meet your first level of requirements for this important relationship.
What type of personality will you work best with? Think about the people who naturally bring out the best in you. What would make for a good learning environment? Does this person get you? Can they see your blindspots? Do they hear beneath your words to help you identify your obstacles to breakthrough coaching? How do you feel when you are around them? Do they see you for who you really are? Do they believe in your potential? Do you feel safe with this person? Is there as easy flow of communication? Will you be able to be open and honest with them?
Even if a coach has the experience and qualifications you’re seeking, if something doesn’t feel right, heed that feeling. Taking time for reflection after an interview will help you hear what your intuition thinks while processing the facts you’ve gathered. Selecting a mentor coach is NOT picking the person with the most experience or selecting someone based on a great recommendation.
It is someone you feel safe with that can firmly but respectfully push you out of your comfort zone. You should feel as though you want to emulate some of their coaching behaviors. Not only do they have to meet your criteria on paper, they also have to ignite a yearning in you to want to reach higher.
Take time to think about the qualities you’d like in a mentor coach before you start the search and then, reflect on the facts and feelings after each interview. This will empower you to find the coach who will propel you to the next level in your coaching, practice, and career.
Here’s a handy checklist of questions you will want to ask:
• How long have they been coaching?
• What accreditation(s) do they have?
• What is the makeup of their coaching practice?
• Where did they learn mentoring and assessing skills?
• Are they on the faculty of a coach-training school? Being a professor in a coaching program adds assurance that they can teach you how to coach.
• How would they define their style?
• How will they work with you to enhance your skills?
• What kinds of assignments do they give you for practice?
• How do they manage their own skill development? Are they being supervised or coached?