This week I was interviewed by Dice (the IT job portal) for an upcoming on-line resource they are preparing to assist young IT professionals in advancing their careers. I was asked what my three top suggestions were for IT professionals who wanted to advance their IT career. We ended the interview on the topic of what makes a good coach or mentor.
The interview got me thinking about how to select a really good mentor and/or coach, whether inside your organization or outside.
I know my own coaches and mentors were extremely instrumental in helping me with my career. So I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts on what are the important qualities to look for when selecting a mentor or coach.
“Mentoring and Coaching IS What You Think!!”
There is a lot of discussion about the importance of mentoring and of coaching for engineers regarding their careers. Many want mentors and coaches to tell them “what to do”. It seems our world is filled with people who want to know “what to do” in order to be successful.
As engineers and technical managers, we often believe that if we just know what to do, we can do it and we will therefore be successful. Knowing what to do seems to be the key.
And yet… the world is filled with people who know a great deal about what to do and yet things don’t change.
Here are some examples.
How many people want to change something in their lives? How many want to exercise regularly, loose weight, stop smoking, save money… the list is almost endless.
And for those who want to know what to do in order to exercise regularly, loose weight, stop smoking, or save money, there are more books and more courses than one can read or attend in a life-time (primarily because there are more and more coming onto the market every day.)
But gaining knowledge about “what to do” does not seem to change behavior in many situations. People read books and attend workshops and nothing seems to change. They diet endlessly. They exercise for a while then keep paying their gym memberships but never attend. They stop smoking and then start again. They save, paying themselves first, while running up their credit cards.
In the final analysis, it seems that changing behavior is not just about “knowing what to do”. There seems to be more than one variable to this equation.
How do we change behavior?
The question then is how do we change behavior and how do we move our behavior toward that of a successful long-term engineering career or toward successful engineering management?
What are the important characteristics in a mentor or coach? And how does this relate to your career?
The answer to these questions is embedded in the “way you think”, or more precisely, the way you and your coach or mentor think.
Another way to say it is that it is in your way of “being”. And let me be clear, the way you think and the way of being are not the same as attitude. Attitude is the by-product of the way you think and your way of being. So someone telling you to change your attitude is putting the cart before the horse.
Think of it this way
Your way of being … leads to and produces …
what you do … which leads to and produces …
what you have.
Summarized it becomes: Being –> Doing –> Having
Most people focus on having. They think they want to have, have, have.
Some, especially we engineers and technical managers, think that knowing what to do is the key. But alas, doing is not the key either.
So what’s up?
The first step in the process is the most important step. And that step is accessing a state of Being that will produce the doing. It is the state of being that drives what we will do and the doing, in turn, leads us to what we will have.
If you want to read more about this topic, you can get it in my Ezine at: Steven’s March 10, 2009 Ezine. And once you are there look for the heading: So What’s Up? to pick up where you left off.