“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
Sometimes the idea of asking for advice or mentorship from someone who is more successful than we are can be intimidating. We’re so conscious of the ways in which we’re lacking that we feel as if we’re imposing on the person we’re seeking advice from. The reality though is that having the opportunity to offer advice and coaching is often just as rewarding for the person doing the mentoring.
Mentoring involves a willingness to guide and lead. There’s a good chance that the person giving the advice was once helped in a similar way, and having the chance to share knowledge and offer insights to someone else is a great way to keeping ‘paying it forward’.
When it comes to your finances, learning from people who have the knowledge that you don’t can be a great way to build wealth and boost your level of financial literacy.
For those of us hailing from dysfunctional family backgrounds in terms of finance, money matters often appear as clear as mud. We can’t and shouldn’t let this limit us. Money is a fact of life; we must handle it daily whether we enjoy it or not.
Enter the financial mentor
This will be a person you know or respect and will feel comfortable discussing money matters with. You can trust this individual to give you an honest, unbiased opinion. A good mentor won’t necessarily tell you what to do, but instead will act as a ‘sounding board’ and help you decide on what changes you need to make. They need to have the strength to confront you when your behaviour falls short of your goals, and the skill to do so without attacking or shaming you. Preferably, a mentor is more of a partner than a parent figure.
What do I want in a mentor?
Do you want an expert who can help with a specific business challenge, someone who can help you ask for a raise, or are you in need of ways to spiff up your image with the proper dressed-for-success attire? Do you want someone inside your workplace who has the inside track to be an advocate for your project or promotion, or someone who can act as a more general sounding board and big-picture guide? Set yourself up for a successful coaching relationship by eliminating obvious mismatches from the start.
Below are some questions that you should consider. These questions will help you clarify your needs. My suggestion is to grab a piece of paper and write as complete an answer to each question as you can.
After you’ve gone through all the questions, you should have reasonably specific criteria by which to judge the fit of a prospective coach.
- What do I want from the coaching relationship?
- Why do I need a coach?
- What level of accountability do I want?
- What specific things do I need to learn?
- How do I like to be supported?
- What support styles drive me nuts?
- What specific technical knowledge does my coach need to have?
- What are the character traits of my ideal coach (i.e. wisdom, integrity, intuition, judgment, intelligence, sense of humour)?
- Do I want process coaching to achieve breakthrough personal insights and growth, or do I just want how-to type education?
- What role do I want personal growth and development to play in my coaching?
- What are my goals?
- How much time can I devote to achieving my goals through the coaching process?
- What specific obstacles are holding me back from success right now?
- What experience should my coach have?
- What beliefs and values are important to have in common with my coach (religion, family and so on)?
- Do I want open-ended coaching, or a specific number of sessions?
- Do I need face-to-face interaction or is the telephone acceptable?
- What skills complement my natural learning style?
- What personality style would I prefer my coach have (woo-woo, drill sergeant, balanced)?
- What price am I willing to pay to get the help I want?
This list of questions is long, and could be longer, because a proper coaching relationship will have multiple layers to it. In other words, be as specific as you can while maintaining some flexibility for the unexpected.
Most importantly, look for someone you can relate to. We identify more strongly with those who have something in common with us. Mutual interests and values are basic identifiers we use in finding friends, and these similarities apply when looking for mentors. Additionally, shared elements of your stories – such as growing up in a single-parent household or working to pay for school – may further deepen the connection. Those who have experienced similar circumstances can more easily understand where you have come from and may have thoughts to share, from budgeting tools to money management.