I have had an abundance of advisors, mentors and coaches over the last decade. Some have been formal and paid, while others were unexpected and casual mentors.
Throughout my mentor/mentee relationships, I have had great experiences and bad ones – in fact, some were very, very bad. Through it all, I have noticed five consistent traits and characteristics of my most positive and impactful mentor/mentee relationships.
“Wisdom is the daughter of experience.” – Leonardo da Vinci
There are many definitions of what a mentor or coach is, but the best in my opinion is simple: an experienced and trusted advisor. Another definition states that a mentor is wise and trusted, but in my lifetime I have learned that wisdom or any form of “guruness” comes from one thing: experience.
Never take advice from someone who has no relevant experience with your type of situation or problem. I am always shocked by the number of small business owners who take bad advice from people who have a) never been a business owner or b) have no measure of perspective on their problem.
If you seek a mentor, life coach, or business coach, ask yourself: “Does this person live the kind of life I want to live? Do they have the kind of success I believe in or aspire to? Have they walked the proverbial walk?”
“Humility is truth.” – Desiderius Erasmus
Don’t mistake arrogance for confidence. Choose a humble coach or mentor. Humility paves the path to an authentic sharing of successes, fears, and failures. Everyone experiences defeat and admitting this is not a weakness.
It takes confidence and courage to share your challenges, let alone admit them. The most profound mentor I have met is comfortable sharing the good, bad, and ugly with me. He is also quick to remind me that the humble among us often live with a deep sense of gratitude and peace of mind.
“The highest form of wisdom is kindness.” – The Talmud
Kindness is a universal currency that costs us nothing and gives us everything. In whatever you aspire to, it takes kindness to truly want to help others reach their goals. Compassion drives the best coaches and mentors.
It enables them to offer a tough love approach that pushes those they help when they are stuck, lost, or recovering from failure. It’s a combination of kindness and experience that gives great coaches and mentors the instinct to not give up on someone despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
“I’ll start letting my guard down when people stop giving me reasons to keep it up.” – Unknown
As business owners, we’re constantly approached by folks needing something from us (e.g., employees, clients, etc.). Our guard is up to maintain self-preservation and often out of the fear associated with showing vulnerability. However, being vulnerable can build trust. Trust is essential for an authentic and productive relationship with your coach or mentor. Your efforts will be futile without reliability. Earn it. Keep it. Give it.
“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.” – Voltaire
I am convinced that the greatest gift you can give others is to believe in them. Lending your support during times of self-assurance and lost faith can be downright miraculous. Remember: belief is a two-way street, and it needs to be earned and sustained. It’s a gift that takes time, trust, and effort to continue.
The right coaches and mentors are invaluable and meant to be cherished and respected. It is an amazing opportunity to have a great coach or mentor, and it is an equally amazing opportunity to become one.
If you find yourself stuck, needing help, business advice, or just accountability, reach out and find a coach or mentor. If you are ever approached with the opportunity to be a coach or mentor, I hope you take it and embrace these five traits.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Nadia Kamal is the founder of Onyx Creative Group, a unique creative agency aimed directly at helping small business owners and entrepreneurs through execution, education, inspiration, and coaching services. A successful entrepreneur in her own right, Nadia is regarded as a branding and business growth expert due to her ability to understand key fundamentals that set companies apart from their competitors. She is on a journey to transform businesses by enacting sound business strategy coupled with creative marketing and brand integration…all while also blending in her one-of-a-kind view on life design. Connect with @onyxcreates on Twitter.