Mentorship

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When I started blogging over 2 years ago, my mission was to share the little knowledge I had acquired over my working life about money and finances. My target was primarily women and the youth. Little did I know that this was a search after my own purpose. All this time, I myself have been undergoing changes of my own regarding the contribution I am making to people out there. You cannot do this kind of work without encountering people one on one and sharing their growth. I mentor people and small businesses on how to be more focussed, more tactical or indeed have a long term take on everything that they plan to do. Resultant to strategic planning is more productive endeavours in their lives or businesses. However, the niggling feeling would not abate in my mind that I was still on the ladder and needed to hone in on my purpose and interact with people more effectively and influence them in their decisions. Last week I had the opportunity to enrol and attend the first meeting of a one and half year long coaching course.
At some stage we all ask ourselves those fundamental questions: What am I doing and how am I doing it? Is this the best way I can do this? Is this why I am here? Am I giving them value or I am just a pretender? At the end of the day it is about quality, credibility and validation. People generally will validate you and give you credit, but do you deserve this affirmation? Is it the best you can give? After spending many years in the finance business, the one thing that is constant is credibility. Everything you say and do must evoke trust. If you don’t ask yourself these credibility questions, then you are not being true to yourself. If indeed you are, then you need a voice telling you: ‘You are doing good.’ Validation in this business is both acquired and earned.
That was exactly my quest. I needed validation and my work needed credibility. Not surprising, validation came up a few times from among the other participants. The course promised validation through certification. Further the country needed certified coaches to offer services to individuals and businesses. I have been mentoring for some time so you can imagine my shock when I discovered that coaching has nothing to do with expertise; this is what I was peddling when I mentored people. You offer people advice and answers to their problems. Coaching was about listening, double listening and then helping people to listen to themselves and validate the solutions they themselves already had thought about…and more!
I found this incredibly empowering. When people are mentored, they walk away with answers to their problems. Typically, such people will not want to take responsibility for the likely failure of the solutions they have. For some people failure is to be absolutely avoided. You see, decision making is a ‘risk’ simply because you can never be certain of its outcomes. Because circumstances are in constant change what may seem ideal today may not be so tomorrow. So even a perfect solution offered can be bad for you if you execute it too late or circumstances differ from the start.
Coaching is a way of encouraging people to think things through in a way that leaves them confident to execute and defend any decisions they make. Coaching moves the person from procrastination to action; from doubt to ‘I can do this!’
Strive Musiyiwa in his recent post has been telling us about his daughter who is a cancer survivor. He told his story, how he was affected, how his wife reacted and how his daughter coped. The messages that followed are of people’s experiences with cancer. Those who themselves have survived or sadly those that have lost loved ones to cancer. Strive’s own story has suddenly encouraged the reader to validate the information at hand; which information is already easily available by the way; by standing up and taking action in whatever shape or form to make a difference. Not to suffer amid so much information and support. To me, he has done his coaching and has left people to ponder on their next (appropriate) move. Does Strive Musiyiwa think he is a coach? Maybe not but he has demonstrated what a coach does. Through this information sharing, he has spurred all of us to do something about it. The principle is applicable in every situation where there is information sharing. There are those that keep the information and validate their actions; then there are those that keep it to themselves and do nothing and then worse still; those that forget about it altogether!
This has been my experience when mentoring women and young people about money management. There are those that will try out the information and learn something by doing. Then there are those who are still thinking about it…what can one do! I can tell who is not validating the information because they are not going anywhere.
Those that have gone out and tried something will still have questions; but they will be newer, fresher questions about the challenges of trying. Invariably they move forward. Don’t be an armchair critic or a couch potato. Stand up and do something. Mentoring and coaching both need people to get up and do something; solving real life problems and growing.
What coaching will do is develop a crop of solution seeking individuals. Gone will be the inertia or apathy or even laziness to find solutions that changes our trajectory for good. A healthy mind is forever seeking answers, creating questions and looking out to whom they can find a breakthrough. There is no more spoon-feeding out there. Even at national levels, this principle can be applied to find answers to developmental challenges; climate changes, pollution soil degradation etc.
Instituting policies that help in finding solution to problems that confront communities is primary, but these must be driven by individuals. Starting from your current reality and following up to where you expect to be. Examining your current reality is the best opportunity to look at what needs to change and then take the steps to change the same. Such an exercise will motivate action because it is not being imposed from the external. It is a realisation or acceptance by you that something needs to change and you will ensure that it happens. Coaching therefore empowers you to take responsibility for decisions that you make. If those decisions don’t work out, take a step back and check what happened, what needed to get done that you did not do. It is all a learning and exciting process.
The challenge I have now is to unlearn all those mentoring habits and help teach my clients that my new role in their lives is as a coach. One to help them identify solutions and take responsibility for the decisions they make. Coaching also pushes you to look at options and other possible solutions that are not in their immediate vicinity. What this does is to explore every possible alternative option available in their environment no matter how remote; and not only the obvious ones that are nearby.
Do you remember how we always look to the outside for solutions? We look out of the window, in the ceiling or out into the sky!! It is the easy way out because we don’t think we are capable of having the solution; it must sit with someone, somewhere else. We won’t have to think through the impact of the solution and how it affects our environment. When it doesn’t work we simply change course and buy other solutions; never committing to ride out the storm or thinking through why the solution is not working. Well, now we know. Unlike magic solutions, problems are like an onion. They are peeled off one after the other. It is not a packed gift of answers that deal with all the attendant challenges that come with execution. Even a perfect execution will throw up and out new problems that you will have to be figured out. Therefore, problem solving is an on-going process.
My new perspective on life is that we must continue to interrogate ourselves at every turn while we are solving our own problems. This continued reflection and looking for answers is truly the spice of life. In coaching I expect much enrichment as I listen to others, help them peel the problem and come up with not one perfect answer but several options to choose from.

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