As I was walking one of my favorite British clients through marketing and social media last week, she suddenly told me that I reminded her of a sheepdog. I was a bit taken aback at first. We were on skype and it wasn’t a video call so there was no visual reference here! Then she explained that it is because I round up her scattered focus and efforts and get her pointed in the right direction and moving forward. And she is right, that is exactly what a sheep dog does with a flock. I quite enjoy the metaphor now and will be using it going forward. I’ve always struggled with the title of coach and mentor fits me much better because of this.
A coach typically will ask leading questions that make you do all the work and once you come up with the answers you then move yourself forward but a mentor has many answers from their years of experience, their expertise, their education and freely shares these as appropriate and needed to get you back on track and moving forward rapidly. Much like the sheepdog, the mentor knows where you need to go to reach your goals and will head you in that direction and keep you there by nipping at your heels, so to speak. Mentoring is a lot more about giving you that proverbial kick in the pants to keep you going than it is about holding your hand to make you feel better. I find mentoring, both being one and having one, to be a more engaged and interactive process than coaching.
The question to answer is what kind of support do you need to get your business in gear. Do you need a shepherd, as in a coach, who will keep an eye out for you, ask leading questions, and help you find your own path. Or are you looking for a sheepdog, as in a mentor, who will give you answers you seek based on their experience, provide resources when you need them, and give you that nip at the heels (or kick in the pants) to keep you on track and moving forward with fire? What works for one business professional is different than what works for another. There is no one size fits all, but instead the right guidance (mentor) or support (coach) at the right time.
And yes, there are those who will take affront at my definitions. Hey, these are my definitions, based on my experience with both coaches and mentors, and finding what works for me and what works for my clients. This is about finding your best fit and I welcome your comments and feedback.