Is there a difference between a friend, manager, mentor, parent, and coach? All of them have enormous value in your life, and all of them are necessary for you. Let’s look at why.
Friends are your community and are very important. They’re lovely to have fun with. They make us laugh, and good friends are great at listening and commiserating. They listen to our complaints and dramatic stories and give us validation and sympathy. We do the same for them. It is valuable, fun, and necessary to have trusted friends. If you are a friend of mine, I adore you.
Your manager will set expectations for your work, and together, you set your job’s goals. Good managers will coach you too, but the coaching is always within the context of your work. They interact with you to help the company thrive. Managers won’t coach you on your personal life or your long term goals (like retirement, traveling, or buying a house). And of course, it’s difficult to talk to your manager about wanting to do a different job at another company or change career paths entirely. “Hi, boss, I know I’m a good application developer, but I want to become a nurse. Can you help me?” They might be willing to help, but they are probably not the best person to talk to about this.
Just like you, your colleagues are there to get work done. You will work together to accomplish goals. Colleagues who are part of a high performing team will work together, rely on each other, and help each other. Even if conflicts come up it’s usually within the context of your work. Working through those conflicts at work helps you achieve success. Of course, sometimes colleagues become friends too. This is a beautiful thing and can make work more fun.
I hope you have a mentor or two at work. This person will help guide you in your professional life. They can give you advice about how to do specific tasks and can teach you a new skill. Mentors are great at teaching you how to do something new that you haven’t done before. Advice from a mentor is from their perspective, based on what they have learned, and offers a specific action you can take. Many people will have more than one mentor at work. They will consult with each one for specific things. For example, I have one mentor to talk to about skills for managing a team and another mentor to talk to about financial management.
If you are lucky, your family is there to help guide you and support you. They teach you their perspective of right from wrong. They help you build a work ethic. Parents make you do your homework, your chores, and they are your original friends, advocates, community and mentors. If you’re lucky, your parents helped you learn how to live your life and become a reasonable adult. As adults, our family is often still there to offer advice.
Why would anyone want a coach if you have friends, managers, colleagues, mentors, and family?
With friendships, you enjoy time together. You might not be able to talk to your manager about hating the work assignment you are currently focusing on, or wanting to shift direction in your career entirely. There are some things you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) bring up to a colleague. Mentors at work help you with specific skills, and not often skills outside of your work environment. Family, of course, is your family. If you have a very challenging topic to talk about, it may be difficult to talk about it with a family member, especially if you think it would risk the relationship. (Mom, I would like to spend the rest of my life on a space station. What do you think?)
What about a coach?
If you have a good coach, you talk about YOU and what you want. Great coaches do not have preconceived notions about what is right or wrong for you. They won’t have an opinion about what you should or should not do. There will be zero judgment and all the freedom to talk about anything, even if it is very uncomfortable, or could never be brought up to any of the other people in your life. Having a coach is extremely valuable. Coaching allows you to explore what you want or don’t want. A coach only sees your side of the story. It’s only your side of the story that matters.
A basketball analogy
Let’s think about this within the context of playing basketball. It’s almost March, so there is a lot of basketball on the TV in our house (Go UCONN!). Anyway, if you are playing basketball, your friend will encourage you during the game and tell you you’re doing a great job. They will cheer you on and take you out for a celebration after the game, whether you’ve won or lost. The team manager will analyze the metrics around the wins and the losses and will focus their attention on the changes needed to earn the next win. Those changes may or may not involve a focus on you specifically. Your team-mates (colleagues) will communicate with you directly about your game performance. They will work with you during the game and call out whether they’re ready to catch a pass or take a shot. Your mentors will work with you on improving your dribbling skills or improving how you communicate with your team members or help you learn the rules of the game. Your parents will show up at every game with full team gear and cheer you on at all costs. They might get mad at the manager if you get benched because someone else has better metrics than you.
But your personal coach will be 100% on your side and only your side. A coach is not your friend, manager, colleague, mentor or family member. They are there specifically to help YOU and only you. The coach will ask questions that might be unrelated to basketball. “If you could do anything you wanted, would you keep playing basketball?”. “What do you love about the game?”, “What do you dislike about it?”, “What do you wish you could change?”, “In the best case scenario – what will you achieve in the next six months? What about a year from now? Five years? Ten years? In your lifetime?”. Your coach will be there for you with a completely open mind, with absolutely no agenda other than helping you see what you want and guiding you on a plan to get there.
I am a certified professional coach .
I can have zero outside agenda and focus all my time and attention on helping the other person see what they want. I help them get there. Sometimes it takes a little tough love. I ask people to dig deep and truly see their capabilities. That can be scary, and often people are skeptical. I hold space for that and lift them up to where they can see the path forward for themselves, and I never judge. No matter what.
In addition to being a coach, I am also a friend, manager, colleague, mentor, wife, mother, sister, and daughter. I am able to apply some of my coaching skills there too. However, I always need to keep the context in mind. At work, I need to care about both the person and the results. As a friend, I want to create fun and support. As a mentor, I can teach specific skills, and as a wife, mother, sister, and daughter, I show up as a supportive family member, and I won’t ever do anything that could risk the relationship. (at least not intentionally)
So if you are struggling because you have things to say, but don’t have anyone you are comfortable saying them to. If you are are burnt out. If you feel like you need a change and you’re stuck not knowing what to do, it may be very valuable for you to hire a coach.
Please consider scheduling a consultation (click here) with me. I would love to hear about your goals and help you get there!
p.s. If we work at the same company together, or we are close friends, or you are a member of my family, then I’m sorry; I’m not the coach for you (see reasons above). I do have access to a large network of wonderful professional coaches and I can help you find a great one if you like.