Here are four reasons you won’t fulfil your potential as an agile coach without a mentor:
- You won’t see your blind spots
- You’ll think you’re more competent than you really are
- The risk of career limiting mistakes goes up exponentially
- You won’t be provided opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable
Let’s go through each of these and provide you with some tips on how to best use a mentor.
1. You won’t see your blind spots
Getting feedback that your work has been judged as “below expectations” is tough. But of course, we all need feedback and reminders when we don’t see what others see as we execute our role as a coach. My point is that the feedback will come back to you eventually, so why not utilise a mentor to proactively solicit feedback instead of waiting for it to be “given” to you resulting ( being blindsided).
A good mentor will tell you what no one else will; where your “rough edges” are rubbing those you coach the wrong way. No coach is perfect and everyone’s strengths, if overplayed, turn into weaknesses. Mentors know both your strengths and weakness and remind you when you forget.
2. You’ll think you’re more competent than you really are
I won’t explain the Dunning-Kruger effect in this post; go here to learn more. In summary we are all at risk of believing we’re more competent than what is our actual level of ability. Self-belief is great but delusion about how wonderful we are is a risk, especially once we start to accumulate high levels of agile knowledge and coaching skills.
A mentor will bring you down the earth and make you understand just how much you don’t know; they’ll allow you to compare your abilities with others in industry, so you don’t become over-confident. A mentor sees the bigger picture around you and your work; hence has the balcony perspective as you strut your moves on the dancefloor.
3. The risk of career limiting mistakes goes up exponentially
At any point in time, I am coaching /mentoring up 20 agile coaches. My job is to set up those I mentor to progress through their career avoiding major missteps. Common examples of career limiting missteps include:
- - Attempting to ‘coach’ leaders or people in positions of power with only limited professional coaching experience
- - Facilitating large critical strategic workshops without the ability to hold the room
- - Failure to listen and take on feedback and maintain a growth mindset
- - Persistent inability to be vulnerable, open and admit mistakes
- - Rushing to coach multiple teams or across the enterprise with limited appreciation of what’s required
- - Attempting to be a mentor to agile coaches when you practice is still immature
A lot of these points relate to a coach not seeing their blind spots AND thinking they are more skilled then they really are (points 1 &2 in this post). I’ve seen good coaches who were overconfident lose credibility and even fired for underperformance when they step into senior roles too quickly. I mentor will advise when you’re ready for the next step; they’ll also coach you through what to do and how to reduce the risk of failure.
4. Mentors find you work opportunities that would otherwise not be available
Once a mentor gets to know who you are and what you are capable of, they become invested in helping you fulfil your potential. Mentors get a kick from seeing their mentees thrive, grow, and learn. So, if you think you can “go it alone” and not utilise the knowledge and wisdom of a mentor then unfortunately this will be a career limiting move. It takes a level of humility to seek out and work with a mentor, meaning that unmentored folks often think they are more capable of achieving their career goals then they really are (point 2.)
I believe that every agile coach should have someone who simultaneously cheers them on (believes in them) whilst delivering some radical candour (honest truths) that will help them learn and grow. By entering into a mentoring relationship, you are saying to the world
“I have a growth mindset; I recognise that I do not know everything and that for me to become the best version of myself I could use a little help.”