Do You need a Coach, a Mentor, or a Big Brother/Sister?

At times, mentoring can be the right solution. At other times you need a coach, or maybe you just need to have a conversation with your big brother or sister. What’s the difference?

Mentors impart knowledge and experience. The focus is on career and personal development. Mentoring is about giving advice, providing training, transferring knowledge, and providing you with contacts. The mentor gives advice and “tells.”

Business coaching is about drawing out personal experiences and answers from the coachee. The focus is on specific development areas. Coaching is a discussion about goals, strengths, potential, insights, and action. The coach doesn’t give advice, nor do they tell the coachee what to do – it’s up to the coachee to find the answers. Coaching discovers your blind spots, those annoying habits that you don’t notice that are limiting your career. Coaching is not consulting or mentoring. You can’t estimate or understand the power of a coach until you’ve tried and felt what coaching is all about.

Now, a big brother or big sister can really be your older brother or sister. In my case, I call my big (older and more experienced) brother for advice or direction or just to bounce an idea off him. He’s not personally involved in my issues so it’s easy for him to give me an objective assessment of the situation.

Sometimes he empathizes with me by saying anything from “that sucks” all the way to “that really is an unfair situation for you.” Other times he’s very direct and slaps me around by saying, “What you are doing makes no sense,” or “Paul, you’re missing the obvious here and let me tell you why.”

If you’re seeking advice or counsel and you have an open mind, you are willing to think differently and perhaps move outside your comfort zone or what you felt was the right approach. This is easy to say but not so easy to do. But an open mind is important when seeking advice from your big brother/sister.

You don’t have a big brother or sister? Then it’s time to find one! They could be a long time friend or a close relative. You need to establish some confidentiality rules at the outset and ideally, they should have more experience than you.

 Give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose aside from the issues and problems that have been bogging you down. What more incentive do you need?

Octavian Bellu was Romania’s national treasure when it came to Olympic sport. His accolades are many. He holds the world record as the world’s most successful coach according to the World Record Academy as of 2007.52 Of a total of 305 medals, including the World and European Championships as well as the Olympic Games, 16 are Olympic golds. He led the Romanian gymnastics team to five world and two Olympic titles, as well as coaching numerous individual gold medallists. His dedication and commitment to excellence have been the key to success for Romanian gymnastics.

As well, Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang, another coach helped Romania win five consecutive team gold medals at the World Championships from 1994 to 2001 and team gold medals at the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics; their teams have combined to win a total of 305 medals at the European and World Championships and Olympic Games, thus setting the new world record for being the World’s Most Successful Coaches (Duo), according to the World Record Academy.53 Octavian became the national team coach at a pivotal time when many girls in Romania aspired to become the next Nadia Comăneci.

Octavian’s view was that when defining performance objectives, you must consider factors such as having a clear vision of the technical and competitive development of the task in question, the steps that you can define according to the time available, the real possibilities of the athlete, their health status, the resources and finances you have available for the athlete, and the potential for recovery after training.

Also important are the athlete’s degree of motivation, the athlete’s threshold of resistance for a special training regime and the athlete’s relationship with their family. Finally, you must factor in other aspects such as the athlete’s social environment; their emotional balance; their previous sporting history, education, and any other factor that defines their personality.

In today’s terms there’s a lot of talk about “mental coaching” and “mental training.” Octavian said:

“We always used mental coaching, but we had another name for it. We called it ‘modelare’, which in Romanian means to sculpt into shape or to adapt to some specific conditions of a contest. We were actually obsessed by it and we found that repetition of an exercise was fundamental to winning gold.”

Octavian told me that the coach must be a perfect psychologist. It is essential to have the talent to temper the exaggerated enthusiasm after a victory and to find the means to rejuvenate the athlete after a failure. Knowing the athlete and finding the best means of communication with them ensures an emotional balance without which performance is not possible. The athlete must understand what factors have contributed to either scenario. Here, the role of the coach is crucial. “When you have small objectives, you have small performances. But if you set yourself some big objectives, you might obtain them and have bigger satisfaction,” according to Octavian. “Also, if you really want the gold medal you need help, and the coach’s role is paramount. In many cases the coach will help the athlete set up a self- evaluation of him or herself. The coach helps the athlete to evaluate his or her own progress.”

Octavian continued by explaining that the main role of a coach is to be backstage, somewhere behind the scenes, away from the limelight or the podium. Not too many people will remember the name of a medal- winning athlete’s coach, yet their role is essential and indispensable.

According to Octavian, to be a top performer, you need ability, talent, and desire. Some give up along the way, but some can reach the summit if they remain committed. Since learning that Octavian had coached many athletes who had won a gold medal, I’d wanted to ask him what other important attributes or ingredients are required for the athlete to win gold?

“Realism, sincerity, creativity, imagination, courage, credibility, spontaneity, in-depth knowledge, open communication, a strong spirit, a lack of complexes of any kind, an accessible philosophy adapted to realities, intuition, pedagogical tact, perfectionism, personal development, versatility, and mental endurance.”

Read more in my new book, Demigods, Aliens, & Ordinary People.

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