July 15, 2016
I recently had a conversation with a coworker about the different ways we learn from others. Naturally, we talked about mentoring, a fairly recent topic of discussion at work with our first Mentor Draft that occurred last month. He shared with me that he had never had a mentor throughout his life but instead had watched several people throughout his life and picked what he liked best about them and what he didn’t that helped him develop his leadership skills. He didn’t believe in necessarily having a formal or overtly active mentor relationship with others but rather a more passive or “a la carte” type of leadership self-development process. Although I can respect this method of learning and self-development (I have done it myself to some extent), I also cannot imagine how my life would have turned out without my mentors.
These are the ones I call my “giants” because they play such a key role throughout a particular time in my life. Some of these mentor relationships have changed as I’ve moved on to different fields of work; however, I am lucky enough to gain new mentors in new places. I am curious as to how I actually got my mentors because I don’t actively seek them out as a mentor per se. In retrospect, I have sought opportunities or taken advantage of them which then resulted in a mentorship, or that I was designated a “mentor” and we built a relationship that turned out to be a real mentorship . It could also be, that for those mentors who seek mentees, I am an easy recruit since I think my love of learning from and with others is quite obvious. Also, I think some times it is simply divine intervention that these relationships develop. In reality, it is most likely a combination of the above, and I have been very fortunate to have had these giants in my life at the right time and the right place. I hope that some day, I can be a “giant” to another because my mentors have and continue to help shape who I am.
At the EntreLeadership Summit, Chris Hogan stated each one of us should have a mentor, a coach, a cheerleader, and a friend… and furthermore, that we should be ONE of these to someone else. I had no problem identifying who are my current mentors. I know who my friends and cheerleaders are with whom I can share anything without any judgment. Upon reflection of these ideas, I realized I was lacking a coach. I have coaches at the gym, but I don’t have a personal coach. So this past week, I recruited a good friend at work for this role and he gladly accepted. Interestingly, I am called “coach” both in and out of the gym by different people, which has caused me to think more about this role recently. Naturally, this causes me to start with its basic definition. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of coach includes:
a person who teaches and trains an athlete or performer
a person who teaches and trains the members of a sports team and makes decisions about how the team plays during games
a private teacher who gives someone lessons in a particular subject
Thus, coaching describes the process used to transport one’s specific skill(s) from where they are to where they want to be. Gym coaches or on sports teams are great examples, and most think of this kind of coach when we call someone a coach. However, I wondered how do I apply this concept, this role as coach on our team at work? And I suppose I already play this role for several people to some extent but I just realized that’s what I was doing – coaching – now I see and understand it. As I learn how to be a good mentor (officially) with a young sailor who drafted me during our Mentor Draft last month, I am also now inspired to be more deliberate in the role of a coach and further develop my coaching skills within my team.
Just as my mentors, coaches, friends, and cheerleaders have benefited me in shaping who I am, how I operate, and what I think and believe about the world around me, I too, want to join our current NCDOC leaders in mentoring and coaching others on our team. I continue to be inspired by them as we continue to shape sailors and civilians and actively shape the culture in which our team operates.