Professional Development

Sales: To Coach or To Mentor?

The interaction between two people who see each other face to face has disappeared for at least half of 2020. That alone has created skin tissue that will be hard to get rid of when we finally find a way to define our new ’normality’. But there is something that hasn’t been taken away: the need to learn better patterns and behaviors. These are two of the things that are and will still remain exactly the same. Here is where coaching and mentorship come to play.

The new generations of professionals deserve better and I think I can speak very well on the topic as someone that have had both coaches and mentors. The former for me maintains its professional line very defined and it is more of an effort with an expiration date based on talent or potential. Meanwhile, mentorship is an evergreen journey around shared wisdom and providing advice on specific situations. Yes, they can be life situations as well, and this is another element of mentorship- it has the potential to become a deep personal partnership. It is also way more fluid than a coach-student relation as it is less formal or organized.

Bill Campbell (former CEO at Intuit), who I believe is one of the best coaches ever, used to say it’s always better to be a coach than a mentor, and I agree with him. Not only because mentors are full of wisdom, but their time seems to be less accessible and not a constant effort, while coaches are permanently getting their hands dirty with our areas of improvement. They are always taking the time to show a sincere interest in the life of the student, team and others.

After almost a decade in Silicon Valley, one lesson stands out. The higher you get in the corporate ladder, the biggest your responsibility is to make others successful. They are the reason why you got there in the first place. It’s our job to at least try to coach our employees, colleagues and sometimes and even our bosses (why not?).

I also realize that it is absolutely okay to reach for the stars and try to look or even better, to be, a hybrid between both. Now the term ‘Mentor-Coaching’ is starting to be popular thanks to organizations like the International Coach Federation (ICF) that represents the gold standard for coaching internationally.

When to look for coaching?

When you are uncertain of your areas of improvement, but you know you want to up level your game. When you are a person that has developed the listening muscle because you will be in vulnerability land more often than what you would like to be. Feedback will become your daily protein dosage. That being said, let’s be clear on one thing; not everyone is coachable. Not everyone has to be. And that is ok.

When it comes to coaching, I think the biggest challenge we are facing in a pandemic era, are the remote-based avenues we are currently obligated to take. I passionately believe a lot of the interactions that will nurture the relationship need to happen in person. At least that’s what made the entire difference for the people I used to coach. I needed to see facial expressions and hear voice tones. The closer, the better.

In today’s world you will need to be extra vigilant of the reactions of your coach and take as many notes as possible. If you can record your sessions, even better. Then, try to do retroactive personal sessions where you see how you can improve your overall behaviors (anything from which and how you are making questions, to the way you are presenting yourself in the meeting).

When to look for mentorship?

When you know exactly the areas of improvement you want to work on. When you are thirsty for a more organized approach to receive that advice and most importantly, when you have identified the person you want to mirror certain behaviors or just pay attention to. Once you’re ready to reach out to future mentors, don’t be the child who wants everything for Christmas. Realistic expectations and asks will create smoother interactions and will make getting the ‘yes’ easier while also furthering the mentor interest.

Lastly, it’s important to set the framework of what success looks like without staring at the clock for time checks. You don’t measure these types of trainings in time. Weird huh? However, it’s one of the biggest truths I have digested. You measure them in transformation. Attitude towards improvement has to do with a mindset change and unfortunately, the mind doesn’t wear a watch- it’s timeless. It doesn’t care if you won several medals in your college years, or if your mother thought you were really going to be the next Picasso the world would get to see. What the mind cares about is resonance. Resonance that allows it to expand, and the same resonance that enlivens it. And when it finally finds it, that’s exactly when you have found the gold behind the rainbow- that’s when genuine transformation begins.

During the past couple of months, I noticed that being five minutes early to any meeting, either coaching or mentorship relations, you can find a lot of unplanned value. Meaning, pay extra attention to those conversations that happen before ‘officially starting’ the meeting- where your mentor or coach share PERSONAL pieces of their lives or days. It’s when you’ll see the most humane side of the person you have in front of you. It will allow you to hopefully have a long- lasting relation.

Do you need a coach, mentor or both?