Business mentors and business coaches can both deliver a huge amount to your business and help you grow. However, they’re both somewhat misunderstood.
I’ve built a quiz to help you understand which you might benefit from most at this point.
Many of the most successful people in the world have coaches and mentors to help them on their journey.
I’m a coach, but I fully support the mentoring industry, so don’t go into this article thinking it aims to push you toward coaching. Coaching is about what’s right for you, and it would be totally unethical of me to suggest something that I knew was wrong for a client.
The Key Difference Between a Mentor and a Coach
Let’s assume you are driving a car (your business).
A mentor would ask you to move into the passenger seat while they traverse some challenging driving conditions which you’ve not experienced yet. They know the destination well, what it looks like when you’re there, and how to get there. They slowly move into the passenger seat as you gain knowledge about traveling on this new terrain.
A coach would sit in the passenger seat and ask you about where you want to go, and help you maintain your path and confidence. At points, you might want to take a break because you’re mentally exhausted, or you may decide that your destination or path needs to change. You’re always in the driving seat.
Let’s look at them in a bit more detail.
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What is a Business Coach?
Fundamentally, coaching isn’t about telling you what to do. It’s about helping you become more aware of yourself and your journey forward. It aims to help you make the right decisions for yourself, without undue influence from others.
They’d be a mirror to yourself, and help you ask and answer some difficult questions for yourself.
Benefits of Coaching
Coaches help you get the most from you, uniquely. They’re not interested in what was right for someone else, they want to help you understand how you can achieve the most for yourself by working at your best.
When Coaching is the Right Approach
If you’re finding yourself struggling with your emotions – such as stress, fear or anger – uncertain about how to make a decision, unclear about what you want going forward, or you’re resisting moving forward (procrastinating), coaching is a fantastic approach.
It will help you to become clear and certain about the path you should take and help you navigate the challenges successfully as you encounter them.
What is a Business Mentor?
A business mentor is a subject matter expert. For example, if you want to setup an online ecommerce store, you’d expect a business mentor who was helping you to have achieved this already and to know the key steps and pitfalls of each approach.
They’d already know how to make money using Facebook ads, they’d understand conversion rate optimisation. You’d be receiving an expert in the field.
Benefits of Mentoring
If you have little to no knowledge of how to take the next step, you’ll find that the right mentor can help you take the leap. If you have no idea how to move forward to your goal, you may need someone to directly help you and lead you by the hand.
When Mentoring is the Right Approach
If you’re confident that you can handle any path that’s put in front of you, a mentor can give you that journey and help you along it. If you’re the kind of person who prefers advice to discovery for yourself, a mentor will offer you that approach.
Which Comes First?
I’m going to try to put a case for a coach to be the first person you work with, but I accept this is a personal journey.
At one point I decided to use my SEO and web design knowledge to start a marketing agency. I was very experienced and I became well known in the world. However, it was unsuccessful.
I hated it. I hated working with clients who were constantly just unhappy with what I was doing, even though it was the right path for them. They also expected me to be available 24/7, but I like significant time off from work.
This is why I think coaching can be most effective as a starting point, because even one or two sessions can help you on an essential point:
Coaching will help you answer this essential question: “Currently this is my goal; is it the right one for me?”
If you spend months or years trying to achieve the wrong goal, you’ll always find ways to sabotage yourself. If you’re the kind of person to just get down to it, you may not have this issue. But for many, the right goal means ensuring that you’ll enjoy the journey and destination.
A business is often like a life partner; you may be working in it for 20 or 30 years, and I’ve coached many very unhappy business owners who don’t like where they’ve ended up.
Should You Work with a Mentor Later in Your Journey?
I would suggest a mentor is perfect when you know where you’re going and you’re clear about how you want to get there, so I would suggest a mentor should typically come second.
Another question that business coaching might help you with is which mentor is best for me? The reason for this is you may choose the wrong mentor, for example. You may choose someone who is critical, when you dislike criticism.
Choosing the wrong mentor could totally ruin your amazing journey to your destination.
Both mentors and coaches can help you optimise yourself and your business. Some also offer both services, although you should make sure they have the qualifications and knowledge to accomplish these tasks if they do.
Remember this key point: if you’re being told what to do, you’re being mentored. If you’re being asked what to do, you’re being coached. So, which do you want to pursue first?
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