The Merriam-Webster Dictionary identifies a mentor as a “trusted counselor or guide” that “is a positive, guiding influence in another (usually younger) person's life.” The concept of mentorship has lasted ages—even dating back to Homer’s poem, "The Odyssey," where a character named Mentor is a “friend and counselor to Odysseus” who manages his household and oversees his son while at war (Mentor in Greece, n.d.). So, what does mentorship look like for executive coaches today? How does mentorship benefit executive coaches? How can executive coaches find mentors today? Continue reading to find out.
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” - John C. Crosby
The mentoring relationship today
Mentoring relationships in today’s society can serve multiple purposes. Some community organizations have mentorship programs for children in high-risk populations to give them additional support. In the corporate world, many organizations have mentoring programs within their training initiatives. Caterpillar, a construction machinery company, has a mentoring program that pairs younger employees with “more senior members of the company for two or three years. During this time they focus in on specific skills the mentees need to succeed in their field.” Many of these mentees also develop leadership skills as a result of this mentorship (Together, n.d.).
Mentorship for executive coaches
Supervision during training
For executive coaches, mentorship is the guidance and/or supervision of a more experienced executive coach. Many training programs require a period of supervision for coaches in training. According to the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, a coach that supervises another coach “engages in reflective dialogue and collaborative learning for the development and benefit of the mentor or coach, their clients, and their organizations.” The International Coaching Federation states that coaching supervision “creates a safe environment for the coach to share their successes and failures in becoming masterful in the way they work with their clients.” This type of mentorship gives executive coaches an additional resource of knowledge and guidance.
Mentorship from community
Executive coaches can also receive indirect mentorship by involving themselves in executive coaching communities such as Vistage, the International Coaching Federation’s Communities of Practice Groups, Arete Coach, and several other executive coaching organizations. Instead of one-to-one mentorship, executive coaches can trade ideas and experiences amongst experienced and inexperienced executive coaches.
“The path to diversity begins with supporting, mentoring, and sponsoring diverse women and men to become leaders and entrepreneurs.” - Denise Morrison
Benefits of mentorship for executive coaches
An Institute of Medicine Report shared in 2010 shows that nurses who received mentoring were more confident in their abilities than those who did not receive mentorship (Saletnik, 2018). Other studies have found that 87% of mentoring participants “developed greater confidence” (Deloitte, 2017). We can infer from these findings that executive coaches who receive mentoring will also increase in their own confidence. Increased confidence can greatly benefit executive coaches.
During episode 1007 of the Arete Coach podcast, Steve Ramerini was asked by Severin Sorensen what advice he would have for those wishing to enter the executive coaching field. Steve responds stating, “I think you need to be confident as well as fearless. You have to embrace the role of being a disruptor” [00:45:05]. Coaches who receive mentoring are more likely to have greater self-confidence, and coaches that are confident in their abilities are more comfortable challenging themselves and their clients to achieve greatness.
Increased knowledge and effectiveness
The Stanford Research Institute studied the effectiveness of a research-based mentoring program for new teachers. Their research showed that teachers who received mentoring were more effective in the classroom than those who did not receive mentoring. These teachers who were mentored were able to learn from more experienced teachers’ knowledge and experiences. This can be intensely valuable for executive coaches as well. Executive coaches who receive mentoring from more experienced coaches are able to learn from their mistakes, experiences, and successes. Vistage affirms the importance of this growth of knowledge via more experienced coaches when they state that the best “coaches are always reading, studying, and speaking with other knowledgeable people so they can stay at the top of their game” (Vistage, 2020). When executive coaches receive mentoring, they increase their knowledge, and as a result, increase the effectiveness of their coaching practice.
Increased network development
Networking is an essential part of business development. Research points to the importance of networking and how having a mentor can increase that network. Having a “network of mentors can assist in the development” of an executive coach’s practice. Mentor and mentee relationships “can help build a reputation, provide needed visibility, and access to opportunities” for executive coaches, while also providing “new sources for learning. Creating a network of developmental relationships” is “critical to achieving career success” (Janasz & Sullivan, 2004). This same research even suggests having a network of mentors or several more experienced professionals to go for additional guidance or advice. When executive coaches build mentee and mentor relationships with other more experienced coaches, they increase their network of resources and opportunities.
Research on the benefits of mentoring shows that those who are mentored have higher levels of self-awareness (Dziczkowski, 2013). Self-awareness is a very important skill for executive coaches to learn. Ackerman defines self-awareness as “the ability to see yourself clearly and objectively through reflection and introspection” (2021). When executive coaches have an increased sense of self-awareness, they are better able “to see things from the perspective of others” and “practice self-control” (Ackerman, 2020 & Silvia & O’Brien, 2004).
Executive coaches who can see their clients’ perspectives are more likely to ask the right questions at the right time because of their increased understanding. Bill Clark in episode 1004 of the Arete Coach podcast touches on the importance of self-awareness. When asked what lesson he has learned that he wishes he learned earlier on, Bill shares that he wishes he had a greater sense of “self-awareness” in his youth. In his reflection on why he wishes he had self-awareness in his early career he states, “I'll be brazen enough to say—I think I could have run the world.”
“When people tell me they’ve learned from experience, I tell them the trick is to learn from other people’s experiences.” - Warren Buffett
How executive coaches can find mentors
Executive coaches can find mentors in many ways. While there are no strict methods of establishing a mentor-mentee relationship, consider the following tips for finding a mentor.
Know your goals (Sastry & Tagle, 2020). At the beginning of your mentor search, you should establish what you want to learn and what you wish to get out of the mentor-mentee relationship. Having these goals in mind can help you select a mentor that is best suited for your needs.
Consider your network (Sastry & Tagle, 2020). Who do you already know? Who is in your network that has the skills you are looking to learn from and would be willing to mentor you?
Look into executive coaching organizations. Do you have a popular executive coaching organization in your area such as Vistage, ActionCoach, or Renaissance Coach? You can use these organizations to connect with more experienced coaches. Furthermore, what coaching organizations do you have access to online? Consider the Insight Articles and interviews offered through Arete Coach and the resources offered through the International Coaching Federations webpage.
Once a mentor is found, it is important to remember that when reaching out for mentorship to “be clear of your goals and why you think this person is the right mentor for you. Be upfront about your time commitment, what you're willing to put into the relationship, and what you expect from them.” It is also beneficial to explain why you are inspired by “the person's work, especially if you've never met” (Sastry & Tagle, 2020)
“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself and helps bring it out of you.” - Bob Proctor
Ackerman, C. E. (2021, April 08). What is Self-Awareness and Why is it Important? [ 5 Ways to Increase It]. Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/self-awareness-matters-how-you-can-be-more-self-aware/
Deloitte. (2017). Mentoring for gender diversity. Retrieved from https://moving-ahead.org/turning-the-gender-diversity-dial-through-mentoring
Dziczkowski, J. (2013). Mentoring and Leadership Development. The Educational Forum, 77(3), 351-360. doi:10.1080/00131725.2013.792896
EMCC. (n.d.). Supervision. Retrieved from https://www.emccglobal.org/leadership-development/supervision/
ICF. (n.d.). Coaching Supervision. Retrieved from https://learning.coachfederation.org/professional-development/Coaching-Supervision
Janasz, S. C., & Sullivan, S. E. (2002). Multiple Mentoring In Academe: Developing The Professorial Network. Academy of Management Proceedings. doi:10.5465/apbpp.2002.7516573
Mentor in Greece. (2019, May 01). Why Mentor?: Who was Mentor? Retrieved from https://mentoringreece.com/why-mentor-who-was-mentor/
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Mentoring. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mentoring
Saletnik, L. (2018). The Importance of Mentoring. AORN, 108(4), 354-356.
Sastry, A., & Tagle, A. (2020, September 03). The Right Mentor Can Change Your Career. Here's How to Find One. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2019/10/25/773158390/how-to-find-a-mentor-and-make-it-work
Silvia, P. J., & O’Brien, M. E. (2004). Self-awareness and constructive functioning: Revisiting “the Human Dilemma.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23, 475–489.
SRI. (n.d.). Providing beginning teachers with research-based mentoring and instructional coaching increases their effectiveness in the classroom, and ultimately boosts student achievement. Retrieved from https://www.sri.com/education-learning/case-studies/research-based-mentoring/
Together. (n.d.). Examples of successful mentoring programs: Together Mentoring Software. Retrieved from https://www.togetherplatform.com/blog/examples-of-successful-mentoring-programs
Vistage. (2020, January 6). 8 Qualities of the Best Executive Coaches: Vistage. Retrieved from https://www.vistage.com/research-center/business-leadership/20200106-8-qualities-of-the-best-executive-coaches/
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