Do You Need a Mentor or a Coach?


I’ve had a few mentors over the years and some of them might be reading this blog, so I want to be sure to thank them because they’ve been amazing influences in my life. They’ve been role models to me. They’ve been inspirational. They’ve made introductions to people who could help me advance my career, or to whom I might be helpful. They’ve challenged me in my career to go to new heights. 

There are a number of new mentoring initiatives popping up from the National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA), International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA) and others. I believe these to be great initiatives.

However, the relationship that has moved the needle for me professionally, especially over the last six years, is having a high-performance business coach. 

Coaching is certainly not a new concept. If you’ve been in athletics, or if you follow sporting events, you know there are several kinds of coaches—offensive, defense, special teams, strength and conditioning, and of course, a head coach. 

I believe business coaching is most like a strength and conditioning coach. This coach looks at your specific role and what limitations you may need to address, where mindset may not be serving you well, and where your lack of focus might cause damage to you or the team. 

While a strength and conditioning coach looks at techniques and form, a business coach may examine or correct processes, systems, routines, strategy or execution. She may notice an alignment issue within your company that could cause major problems in the future if not addressed. She will be able to notice your blind spots, where you might have an imbalance in your life that’s causing you to not perform at your peak abilities. 

Where an athletic coach looks for imbalances that may signal a structural problem, a business coach assesses what’s sending your team off-kilter. One of my favorite things to examine as a business coach is how the team is balanced conatively. 

I use KOLBE assessments for this. Having too many fact-finders on a team can cause paralysis by analysis. Too few teammates low on process engineering may reduce your capacity to scale. And every innovative business owner needs someone to count the cost or risk of a new initiative, keeping tasks in line with the overall team objectives. 

A business coach will help you discern the difference between real limitations and limiting beliefs about yourself, others or the world. Coaches of all types have the role of mindset training.

Great coaches on and off the field build clear communications habits and routines for check-ins on performance. These skills are important in sports, business and in life. 

Finally, a strength and conditioning coach is looking at nutritional intake, the same way a great business coach offers suggestions for your intellectual and career-growth intake. What are you learning? Where are you growing? What perspective are you missing? Expect a coach to challenge you in this area. 

Mentoring is an amazing tool, and I strongly believe that you should have mentors in your life. I still use mentors in my life when I need help with something very particular, but I use a coach for my overall performance improvements.

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