I just saw probably the 1000th article on how to find the right mentor. It seems to be the career advice du jour. It’s not that I don’t believe you need a mentor or that mentors aren’t effective, I’ve had plenty, and they were all awesome. It’s the moniker. We’re giving the variety of people who guide us along our career path all the same label. By giving them the same label, we’re not describing nor maximising the relationship to its fullest potential. Consider the word “coach” in the world of American Football. I did a quick search and found no less than ten different roles in the team. My guess is the “Linebacker coach” brings something uniquely different to the team than the “Quarterback coach.” Sure, they are both called “coach,” but the players work with them in very different ways and look to them for very different needs. I have no idea why I chose this analogy as, unsurprisingly, I know nothing about football. However, it works, right?
I have no doubt you have a team of coaches or mentors to support Team You in your professional life. I’ve come up with a few new labels to help you build your support team so that you too can go to the Superbowl of your life:
- Champion - also known as a “sponsor.” This person uses her relationship capital to elevate you.She’ll recommend you for jobs, opportunities, and promotions. I’ve found that often you don’t know someone is a champion because she doesn’t often tell you that she’s championing you in that proverbial “room that you’re not in.” She knows how to articulate why you’re awesome and share that story whenever she can. The tricky part in having Champions - you can’t choose them, they choose you.
- Advisor - as close to a mentor as you can get. This person spends time with you discussing ideas and options. She brings her experiences to the conversation to provide different perspectives and solutions. The key strategy to keep in mind with advisors is diversity. If you’re looking for experience and perspective, create the most diverse pool of advisors as possible.
- Educator - your education doesn’t end with a diploma. Today’s ever innovating workplace requires a “constant learning” approach. As you continue to learn, you need a teacher. This person educates you on the language, customs, processes, and concepts of her specific area of expertise. I have and had Educators in IT, Finance, Legal, Marketing, and all sorts of departments in my previous roles. Steven Covey’s concept of “Seek first to understand then to be understood” could not be more relevant in this area.
Think about this: All of these people could have the label of “mentor.” That label is far too generic to garner positive results from one-on-one interactions. You need to clarify each mentor’s role to take full advantage of her advice and support.
Take your current list of mentors, map them against these new categories, and ask yourself:
- Are any holes in your coaching staff?
- By understanding their role on “Team You,” would you approach your interactions with each person differently?
- Are some people playing more than one role? Should they?
Conversely, If you’re managing people, are you providing these three different resources to your team?
With a final American Football analogy, consider the role and title of Head Coach. It’s interesting that in sports they use the word “head” while similar labels in the business world use Chief or President. Sports authorities have realized the importance of recognizing the role of mental performance along with physical performance for ultimate success. [My friend Grant Parr is an expert on this concept. Check out his website: gamefaceperformance.com]
You need a Head Coach on “Team You.”
My version of the Head Coach is Chief Belief Officer (CBO). This person not only believes in your particular awesome but tells you as much. Figuring out whom you want to be and what impact you want to have in the world is a surprisingly lonely experience. Having a CBO to call on to believe in you when you’re having doubts about yourself, your ideas, or your goals is often the magic elixir you need to move forward. That is the conversation you have to get out of your head and act.
When someone believes in you, is there anything you can’t do?
Build a Team You. Include and define your Champions, Advisors, and Mentors. Finally, find that most important role, find that Chief Belief Officer. With this team, you can win your personal Superbowl.
Be Curious: What We’re Reading
We are voracious readers and podcast addicts at The Amplify Lab. We’ve chosen a couple of newsworthy items that really opened our eyes to some new and amazing ideas and made us think outside the box, beyond our knowledge sphere.
"7 Leadership Lessons from Bill Belichick and 6 Other Championship Coaches." by John Eades in Inc. Here are a few incredible takeaways from coaches who hoisted trophies in 2017. Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash
"5 Powerful Leadership Lessons from Major Business Icons Steve Jobs and Elon Musk" by Sylvia Lafair in Inc. Master any one of these five major ways of leading and you'll be stronger and more effective in all areas of your work and life.