Mentors can be invaluable to any entrepreneur. No matter how accomplished you are in forming and running a business, there’s always someone who knows more and can pass some wisdom on to you. However, too often mentees make the mistake of not realizing that coaching is a two-way relationship. As important as it is to find the right coach, it’s also important to be open to what that coach will teach you.
In his decades as a speaker, author and businessman, Tony Robbins has had the opportunity to serve as a mentor for a large number of entrepreneurs and professionals across all industries. I recently spoke to Robbins as he prepared to mentor entries to Shopify’s Build a Business Competition. The well-known business strategist and author of the new book “Unshakeable” teamed up with the commerce company to guide budding startups. He shared his insights on what someone can do to be truly coachable.
Mentees are teachers, too.
Robbins has had the privilege of coaching some of the most successful people of our time, including Paul Tudor Jones II, one of the top financial traders in the world. During 24 years as his mentor, Robbins found he’s constantly learning from Jones. When someone is successful, it’s easy to credit the coach for that success. But Robbins says he’s found his best students are those who teach him too.
“I’m constantly looking for any insight that can take things to the next level,” Robbins says. He’s also mentored Salesforce’s Marc Benioff for the past 14 years. “I’d be an idiot to think I’m only mentoring him. I’m constantly learning.”
Beware of fear.
In his experience, fear is the single most difficult thing to overcome in the coaching experience. If a mentee is afraid of being coached, that person may not be as receptive to the lessons he or she needs to learn to be successful. This often is rooted in a fear of failure, which can be devastating in the business world.
“Business is constant adaptation, constant growth, constant flexibility, and that requires that you know who you’re serving but it also requires that you become a learning machine and that you don’t take anything as failure,” Robbins says. “It’s all learning.”
Robbins says if you’re trying anything new, failure will be constant. Those who don’t fail will likely be swept away by someone more innovative. Therefore, you shouldn’t fear failure because that just gets in your way. Instead, focus on learning more and more.
Related: Tony Robbins' Secret to Abundance
Learning to listen.
In the early days of growing a business, some entrepreneurs feel that not listening is an advantage. Many founders say it’s too common for people to say what they’re doing won’t work. Many feel it’s better to avoid such distractions, keep their head down and work hard on their product or service. However, don’t let that stop you from finding a mentor who you can listen to. If you’ve got someone whose advice you trust, it’s always a good time to recognize the benefits they can bring to what you’re doing.
“Your threshold of control as you stay in business grows,” Robbins says. “Unless you’re constantly adapting, your threshold of control is going to happen sooner. If you push yourself in the middle of your fear and find your way through, all of a sudden what used to be scary is easy.”
The value of mentors
Without mentors, entrepreneurs must learn by their own experience only. Robbins says this is the most painful, expensive way to learn how to build and operate a business. Instead, he believes that success leaves clues. He believes through modeling, you can avoid all of those wrong turns that delay your success.
“If someone else has succeeded on a huge scale and they consistently produce results, then they’re not lucky,” Robbins says. “They’re doing something different than everybody else and if we sow the same seeds, we can reap the same rewards.”
The fastest way to accelerate your progress as an entrepreneur is to find a good mentor and learn as much as possible. But you must first get past your fear of failure, as well as any fears you have about being coached. Doing so will be great practice for the many challenges you’ll face over the years as you find new ways to grow your business and excel in your chosen career.