Different Mentorship Roles: Cheerleaders, Coaches, and Critics

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When I was 12-years-old, I founded the non-profit organization, Greening Forward. Oftentimes, I encourage young changemakers by telling them that part of the secret to my success was the many awesome mentors I had and still have in my life. Mentors identify opportunities, unlock doors to self-expression and awareness, and they also challenge our way of thinking.

Whether you're leading your own non-profit organization as a millennial, or simply interested in growing as an individual, you too, need a mentor, or perhaps even an army of mentors. In order to enlist an adult mentor, you should first discover the areas of your life - such as fundraising, volunteer management, public speaking, social awareness and technology - that are needing the most growth and preparation. Next, visualize all the people that are out there excelling in one or more of these areas. Lastly, consider recognizing that these are the persons that you should be seeking to engage as a mentor.

Perhaps you already personally know who you're wanting to ask to be your mentor, or possibly you will need to have an introduction be made, but please know that not all mentors are the same. Some mentors are cheerleaders, coaches, or critics. Sometimes you could have one mentor who will wear multiple hats.

The Cheerleader
Why is it that we deeply remember what our middle school bully told us, but easily forget the compliments that were also told to us today? Variations of "I am not good enough" roam through our conscious thoughts, irrespective of positive feedback. As leaders, and as humans, we are always doubting our abilities to undertake the largest, and even the smallest of challenges. Yet, our ability to quiet the negativity must herald our ability to rise above our challenges, and to succeed. We need individuals in our lives who are there to help us assert our identity, and remind us that we are more than what the world tells us that we are.


You are born with potential, and it is your personal responsibility to turn that potential into talent. The world depends on it.
Chadwick Gillenwater-Offutt, my cheerleader

The Coach
Coaching involves helping an individual use what they already know to solve the problems before them. Coaching enables someone, and does not train someone. Coaching develops an individual, rather than imposing on an individual. Coaches do not blur their assistance with personal values and beliefs. Instead, having someone to ask the hard questions without suggesting next steps helps the mentee to realize how to use their innate wisdom to solve their own problems, and develop their own plan or map.

You already have what it takes to help you address many of the problems you face.
Lisa Bardwell, my coach

The Critic
Don't expect your critic to make any contributions to your cause, attend your events, nor assure you with any "I'm so proud of you" or any other encouraging words. Everyone can't be your cheerleader, and you are going to need people there who are not afraid to tell you when you've made costly mistakes or bad decisions. Critics hold us accountable to what we say we were going to do. They understand us, our journey, and our wishes, but also understand that we have a lot of growing and learning to accomplish. They keep our egos in check, and make sure we've considered other perspectives when making decisions.

Celebrate the small victories, but do so in a way that honors the greater vision and calling for which you are perpetually striving towards.
Jonathan Seymour, my critic

Now, considering these different roles of a mentor, do you have a cheerleader, critic, or coach? If you do, take the time this holiday season to send them a special thank you. If not, consider the potential value that having a cheerleader, coach, and/or critic may have in your life.

Engage with Charles on Twitter @corgbon.

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