Do I need a mentor or a coach?

And what’s the difference between a mentor and a coach anyway?

It’s no secret that over the last year a number of people supported me as I worked out what I wanted to do with my life, and then put in place steps to achieve this. When I hit my career crossroads, I looked for advice everywhere – from friends, colleagues, old contacts, people at networking events, Twitter (read about this more here), Google… some days I would have probably gone as far as asking a random stranger on the street!

During this time, I also worked closely with a professional coach.

When people find out that I have a coach, I am often inundated with questions:

What does a coach do? Do I need one? Why would you get a coach? What does a coach do that a mentor can’t?

If you have been thinking about coaching, and wondering how it could work for you, let me fill you in on my coaching journey.

I met my coach Andre Obradovic at a networking event, where he was the guest speaker. We started talking after his presentation, and what drew me to Andre was not just his diverse career and leadership roles (from the Army, to high profile tech companies and now a coach and CEO of a start up), but his integrity and authenticity. Andre didn’t shy away from the tough times he had, and this really connected to me at what was a really difficult time.

First tip: find a coach you connect with, and trust. This is critical to set the foundations for the coaching relationship. Then, make sure your coach is ICF Certified – this is the global standard for coaches. These days, so many people seem to be making different claims about coaching and wellbeing – don’t waste your hard earned money on someone who isn’t a qualified professional.

Perhaps the thing I found most challenging with coaching is the fact it’s all about you. 

I remember our first session very clearly. Andre asked me about my confidence levels. I had always thought that I was a pretty confident person, but I instantly shied away from this question. In hindsight, my confidence was pretty smashed at this point. He later told me that he knew just by listening to me and observing my body language that my confidence was smashed. Obviously this is a key skill of a good coach – be it intuition or connection!

I had gone into the coaching session looking for answers to all the questions I had, like what on earth was happening with my life?!

It turns out; coaching is about your coach asking you questions to help you find the answers. I later asked Andre about my early misconceptions about coaching, and he summed it up pretty nicely:

When we take a coaching approach, we believe that people are by their nature creative, resourceful and whole. They are capable of finding answers. Capable of choosing, capable of taking action, capable of learning.

In reality, this meant that I had to do a lot of soul searching and come up with the answers myself.

Is it always easy? Absolutely not. Though I would hazard a guess that anyone who is looking at proactively taking control of their life with coaching is not looking for a band aid solution.

In Andre’s opinion, coaching is about evoking transformation. His role is to remind his clients of their own inner light and help them find it again.

So could I get the same support from a mentor?

In my opinion, no.

Why not? In my opinion, mentoring most commonly occurs in a work context, and doesn’t look at the challenges and opportunities that you are facing from a holistic view.

Also, I don’t think I could be as honest with all aspects of my life and vulnerabilities with someone in a mentoring context – especially someone I work with.

The best thing about coaching was the really tangible strategies Andre helped me implement to make big changes in my life. He also kept me really accountable… because some days I was a terrible student!! (Andre, if you are reading this, I am *still* working on the running thing…!) While mentors can be hugely beneficial and critical to career success, I have no doubt coaching played a huge role getting me to the point I am today. And I can see a really important role for coaching in my life going forward.

Still thinking about coaching? Feel free to get in touch via comments, social media or email at phoebe@makingitup.net.au. Also make sure you check out Andre’s page Which Path to find out what a professional has to say about coaching! Andre is an ACC level certified ICF coach. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter or check out at some of his videos on Vimeo.

Long post today, but this is something I am super passionate about… I hope it helps you on your journey!

Phoebe

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