We have covered the physiological, cognitive, and interpersonal aspects of reaching toward your potential. In the fourth and final part, we cover the need to seek out wisdom from the wisest people you know. Broaden your circle and look for mentors, coaches, and sponsors.
Mentors, coaches, and sponsors have similar goals but go about it in different ways. The recipient (e.g., protégé, client) is the one who decides what is most practical and effective with each choice.
A mentor-protégé relationship is typically a one-to-one partnership where the protégé retains most of the power. The protégé enters into a partnership with the mentor which may or may not be the direct supervisor. It is a personal relationship where goals are mutually established, the protégé receives regular feedback, and the environment is relatively non-competitive. A mentoring relationship is invaluable if you are new to an industry, recently promoted to a management or executive position, or taking on a project vastly different than what you are used to. A con to mentoring is that sometimes mentors fail to point out flaws and may be reluctant to hold you to established goals.
I benefitted greatly from my first few mentors. I learned how to write effective communications to various demographics and how to maneuver professionally in different corporate settings. I also learned how to manage people and tasks both up and down the chain.
A coach-client relationship is a little different than mentoring as it is typically a paid service. Great coaches are worth their weight in gold and bad coaches can sink your initiatives. It is easy to find a coach for virtually any goal you have; life coaches, fitness coaches, relationship coaches, and parenting coaches are just a few.
The methodology for coaching differs from mentoring because the coach assesses your current situation and begins laying out the path to overcoming your challenges. Even though it is two-way communication and you make the final determination with regard to your activities, the coach plays the dominate role in establishing your goals. Remember, the target is to propel you out of your comfort zone and toward your goals. You may need an unbiased assessment to experience a true paradigm shift.
Again, I benefitted greatly from my coach. I knew I needed to have a “tougher skin” but I didn’t know how to go about learning it. My coach showed me how to tap into my mental toughness which, by the way, is a lot harder than it sounds. I am more resilient, flexible, and proactive now because I understand how fear and lack of focus can sideline a goal.
Sponsorship is less about mentoring and coaching and more about having someone in a critical position “put in a good word”. Don’t think nepotism; think agent. Individuals in other functions or in a higher echelon are exposed to a different set of opportunities. If they know about your skill set or area of expertise, they are more likely to see you as a great asset and will suggest you as the “go-to” person for a project or program.
At my last consulting firm, my job manager encouraged me to cross-pollinate with other functions and regions. She knew the importance of sponsorship and getting my name out there. As a result, I was able to find additional projects which grew and highlighted my expertise. Sponsorship is better leveraged in large corporations or between businesses where people do not know what you have to offer.
Be coachable and apply what you learn
None of these ideas will work if you are not coachable. There will always be someone out there who knows more about a subject or has more experience. Acknowledge someone’s expertise and be open to instruction even if it is coming from someone younger.
The inputs of reaching toward your potential include addressing your physiological needs, investing in cognitive development, refining your interpersonal skills, and being coachable. The output of learning, practicing, and applying your new skills is excellence.