The Coach vs the Mentor : My thoughts!

After yesterday, today was all about finding myself again. Yesterday I didn’t feel like me…. A glass of good red wine, a chapter of a mind expanding book and early to bed is a magical recipe to waking up feeling so much better than the day before.

Plus Thursdays are my volunteering days! And there is nothing more thought provoking, grounding and inspirational than spending an hour or so with the Year 6 primary school girls of Leeds. They inspire me as well as make me feel blessed with all the many things, experiences and life I am so lucky and grateful to have.

As volunteers we are ‘mentors’ and part of a programme to enhance the lives of children, encouraging them to be more self-efficient, confident and raise their aspirations.

Previously, in my corporate life, the words ‘mentors’ and ‘coaches’ were used interchangeably. I believed this ‘person’ was there to coach me, my peers and colleagues to do a better job; to push me, guide me, make me realize my potential, even if I couldn’t see it.

I now strongly believe that they are different and serve different purposes. I have both a coach for my mind and for my body: a fantastic life coach who helps me unwind and unravel my thoughts, feelings, attitudes and helps me untangle the chaos to see the path forward and a coach that today has put me through my paces so that my legs are still trembling at the sprints and my stomach muscles are aching, a coach to get my body into physical fitness. As my Dad always taught me – a fit and healthy body, leads to a fit and healthy mind or work hard, play hard (he was referring to lacrosse, tennis, squash… not the other sort!). A coach is there cheering for you on the sidelines, urging you to keep going and exercise whatever muscle is in play – the big brain muscle or the triceps, biceps and glutes!

So that leads me to re-question the term ‘mentor’.

And it was Cheryl Sandberg who made me rethink this, if I am honest. For she says in her book ‘Lean in’ – you shouldn’t have to ask someone to be your ‘mentor’… they just are.

And I am leaning more towards her way of thinking. For I have had many mentors in my life… and not one have I asked to be my ‘mentor’. But I have watched them, had coffee with them, sat at the dinner table with them, even had far to much to drink with them! And each time I have left their presence, I have felt inspired. And each time, I have taken a little piece of them away with me that I have wanted to replicate…

My first line manager at Accenture – young, seriously bright, arrogant, cocksure, but brilliant at building talented teams that wanted to follow him, brilliant at playing the bigger game, painting the bigger picture… making himself indispensable!

My last line manager before leaving the 9-5, who ruffled feathers but stood up for what she believed in, the people she believed in and had a team who would have done anything for her… who faced cancer and beat it.

My oldest friend, who I stood weekend after weekend on the lacrosse pitch with, who has always been entrepreneurial while we were all off working for someone else, who continues to challenge and change and follow her dreams…

My Dad, who has always worked hard, tirelessly, at work, at looking after my mum and who I have never heard complain, not even once….

My father-in-law, who has time for everyone, listens intently, doesn’t care what others think of him and for as long as I have known him, has never let a hangover stop him from mowing the lawn…

I could go on forever…

My Mum – who said, always buy the best you can afford; my Mother-in-law who is the most incredible host, amazing food, atmosphere and yet she is there right in the midst of the party making it all look effortless… And even Mr OCD who has always said to me.. ‘worrying about something that may never happen is a waste of time, we will act when we know the facts’.

So in essence, we are all mentors.

Mentors to someone.

Something we do or say can inspire someone else at any given time. And we may never know it…

And I just love this quote which just about sums up my thoughts on mentorship: ‘Success isn’t about what you accomplish in your life, it’s about what you inspire others to’…

inspire success

Therefore, if we are all mentors and inspire others even without knowing, we must all be a success!

I think that means I can open another bottle of wine in celebration!  Cheers!

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