Everyone needs a mentor. Whether it’s a highly paid coaching professional, a colleague, or friend in your innermost circle, there is power in having someone in your corner who will tell you the truth and has your back, even when you think they don’t.
For nearly two decades, I have had the great honor of having two such men in my life: one a professional coach and minister and the other a military veteran and lifelong risk and resiliency expert. Both took me under their wings to guide me along in my career. Without them, I would still be struggling to make my way in the dog-eat-dog corporate world.
Unfortunately, one of my mentors was lost to us just before the early days of the COVID pandemic due to complications of an existing underlying condition. I had lost touch with him for the typical reasons: a busy life too fraught with daily requirements and too little time to spend checking in on others. Jim’s ability to blend spirituality and real-world professional coaching was in a class all its own. We often spoke of my desire, yet lack of confidence, to coach. I didn’t have the luxury of jumping into coaching with both feet, cold turkey, and leaving the safety and security of a full-time, well-paying job.
Jim preached (coached) patience and learning: using the experiences and opportunities before me to develop and refine my coaching abilities where I was, gainfully employed. In my typical bullish nature, I was frustrated but agreed he was right (as always).
More recently, I met with my other mentor, Fred, who on numerous occasions has cleared the way for me to pursue and obtain important milestones in our shared career path and to discuss my frustration with a professional appointment he himself helped me to obtain.
Three years into the assignment, I felt stuck and unable to move the ball down the field. I shared my concerns with Fred, and I was surprised to hear from him that it was time for me to let it go. “Squirrel,” (Fred nicknamed me long ago) “you need to walk away from this before it consumes you. It will wear you out and steal your joy. Sometimes, the only message received is the one delivered as you walk away. You know how to fix this, but it’s not from the inside of the machine. Step away and do things your way.”
The consummate rationalist, Fred led me to the next stage in my development, evolution to coach. I had argued for a new platform of learning in our discipline for three years to no avail. I was surrounded by stagnation and political polarity. No one wanted to surrender or compromise.
After contemplating Fred’s words, it dawned on me that my personal coach made a similar connection when I grappled with how to begin exploring my transition to coaching. “Start where you are,” Harlan said. “There are those amongst your peers who could use your calm, discerning support.”
Sometimes wisdom comes from the most obvious places directly from the mouths of the wisest persons in your immediate circle. As both mentor and mentee, we have so much to learn and to teach one other. If you’re at the end of your rope, stuck in a loop, or at a crossroads of decision impasse, talk with someone who knows you well. It takes a coach to get you and your best back into the game.