Finding a Mentor or a Coach

Finding a Mentor or a Coach

One of the first questions I get asked by entrepreneurs, CEOs, and executives interested in mentoring and coaching is, “what’s the difference between them?”

Coaching is a process in which a coach asks a series of cascading questions (sometimes referred to as Socratic Method), to help the person being coached use their own experience, intuition, and intelligence (emotional and intellectual) to come up with the answers they are looking for. Coaching is not advice driven in that the coach asked questions but does not proffer feedback or attempt to move the person being coached in a particular direction.

Mentoring is similar in it’s approach to coaching in that strong mentors are also good coaches. What mentors bring to the table that coaches don’t is the ability to add in their personal sage experience in the areas the person being coached is struggling with. Mentoring is both question and advice/guidance based.

Now that we know the difference, here are the rest of the questions I get asked:

  • Do you (Mike) have a mentor or a coach: I have two Mentors who are also very strong coaches, Walt Sutton and Guff Muench. I am grateful for the time, energy, and wisdom they’ve shared with me. They are great men who I have a deep admiration for.
  • How did your meet your mentors? Walt and I were introduce by a mutual acquaintance. Guff and I were introduced through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Mentorship Program (a program I founded in Vancouver with the help of the late Steve Cowan).
  • Where can I find a mentor ? I’ll get the self-serving part out of the way first – at ViRTUS we offer both Mentoring and Coaching. One of my mentors, Walt Sutton, has space to work with another entrepreneur or CEO right now as well. The other way is to consider successful people in your life who have accomplished something similar to what you’d like to accomplish (family friends, executives in your company, other entrepreneurs you know, members of associations you belong too, etc.). Approach them to see if they are interested in having lunch or coffee from time to time so you can learn from their experience.
  • If I want to hire someone to mentor or a coach me, what does it cost? The range for coaching and mentoring in Vancouver is between $1500 – $5000+ per month depending on the mentor/coaches experience and the time and energy they put into working with you.
  • How often would we meet? Weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly for anywhere from 1-4 hours is the time commitment you can expect for face-to-face or on the phone mentoring. As well you should expect to have unlimited access to your mentor or coach between sessions by email or phone in case something time sensitive comes up that you really need some support on.
  • What will we talk about? Mentoring and coaching conversations span the complete spectrum from business, career, personal, and family. The primary focus is on your success as a business leader and as a human being – however you want to define that for yourself.
  • Why would I get a mentor or a coach? Because the very top performers in their field, regardless of what field that is (business, sports, medicine, law, etc.) all have mentors and coaches who help them stay ahead of the pack and ensure they put their energy, attention, and focus on the behaviours and actions that will lead to the success they are looking for.
Mike Desjardins

Mike is a a graduate of UBC’s Sauder School of Business with a Bachelors of Commerce, Mike has spent the past 21 years transforming businesses.

  • Mark Mawhinney
    Posted at 12:02h, 14 April Reply


    Good post. Here’s a bit of a rambling comment.

    The right kind of mentorship from the right kind of mentor can be a tremendously valuable resource for any entrepreneur.

    I suggest that the right kind of mentors are those that are or have been where you want to be.

    I’m fortunate insofar as I have four mentors who all have been or are where I’d like to be: (Mentor 1) founded and owns a very successful privately held company – the leader in its marketplace; (Mentor 2) ran a very successful plastics die and moulding business (the desktop you’re using was probably manufactured by this Tacoma company) which he sold; (Mentor 3) started and ran one of BC’s most successful restaurant chains before selling his interest, and; (Mentor 4) has deep financial expertise and has made a very good living advising, financing and helping grow entrepreneurial ventures.

    All of them have grey hair and one has almost no hair! Meaning, they’ve got life and business expertise.

    I’ve most recently been going through the process of determining my next career steps. While I don’t pay for my mentors’ advice and it is, consequently, in an ad hoc form – they were integral in helping me assess a business opportunity that had been presented to me. All, separately, advised me not to pursue it.

    Why was their advice valuable? Firstly, because they know me very well (I’ve known three of them for between twelve and thirteen years and worked very intensely with the fourth for a couple of years) and care about where I want to go. Secondly, because they know my weaknesses and understand that their advice needs to counterbalance them. Thirdly, they know where I want to go. Fourthly, they have a vested (not financial) interest in helping me get their.

    I’ve seen and heard ineffectual mentorship. I’m sure you have too. Poor mentorship can not only not be additive, but I do think that it can be less than constructive (even destructive) to the inexperienced entrepreneur.

    This is a terrifically important topic for you to touch upon and I applaud you for doing it.

  • Mark Mawhinney
    Posted at 12:20h, 14 April Reply

    Oops – change “their” to “there” in third last paragraph! Hitting “send” too quickly is one of my weaknesses!

  • Mike Desjardins
    Posted at 13:07h, 14 April Reply

    Mark I really appreciate you sharing your personal mentoring experience. Every time I meet or speak with someone successful at some point mentors come up in the conversation; how grateful they are for having had amazing ones along the way. You raise some great points on the topic. I want to add one piece I saw on TED this morning this discussion:

  • Bob Wang
    Posted at 09:29h, 15 April Reply

    Hey Mike,

    Thanks for referring me to the post, it is very helpful.

    My desire is become a better mentor, especially for my team. However, I end up only giving them advice. When I asked those probing questions, I was really looking for a specific answer that I already had in my head. Therefore, I try to direct their thinking to come up with the answer that I was expecting. Now, that’s not really allowing the other person to fully explore him/herself for the answer.

    With what mindset do I have to approach these mentoring situations to avoid just giving the advice, but really trying to help them grow by letting them to come up with answers themselves?



    • Mike Desjardins
      Posted at 12:55h, 15 April Reply

      Bob, that’s a great question. The mindset shift for mentoring is, “what personal example from my experience can I share that will help show this individual another way of approaching this situation?” Most people find leading questions a tad condescending so instead I focus on questions that are truly inquisitive so that we both learn something from the discussion.

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