Looking for a Qualified Teacher or Credible Mentor?
4 Things to Consider:

Don't Insulate Yourself from Developmental Feedback (constructive criticism). Be Brave. Seek it out.

Recently, in a post entitled “Want to improve? Give people permission to tell you the truth.”

I wrote:

“As scary as it is, if you REALLY want to improve, seek developmental feedback.

But NOT from just anyone.

Ask people you trust.
Ask people who have experience in your industry or craft – either firsthand or through extensive observation.
Ask people who have no vested interest in the outcome of your decisions…

…Ask for suggestions. Find qualified teachers and credible mentors.”

If you’ve decided to be brave and seek out developmental feedback from “qualified teachers and credible mentors” your first step is to:

1. Define “qualified” and “credible” so you can identify those people.

In my experience, “qualified” can be interpreted to mean that someone has a degree or certification or some sort of credential they’ve earned through a structured educational or training program. But much too often, that degree or certification represents completion in that program and not necessarily COMPETENCE. I’ve personally gotten more than a few clients because the “credentialed” person couldn’t actually DO the work.

(Sometimes a certification is necessary to meet eligibility requirements, but I stopped getting certifications to enhance my credibility a few decades ago when I recognized that, in many cases, anyone could become certified if they paid for it. I chose instead to diligently pursue competence, strive for excellence, demonstrate a strong work ethic and genuinely care about the needs and success of my clients, which resulted in a solid reputation and a client base built by referrals.)

So, if a credential isn’t a dependable measure of qualified or credible, then what should you look for in a mentor?

Someone who is doing what you want to learn to do – and is doing it well.

These are the people you want to emulate. Research their credentials, find out where they obtained their education and training and who their teachers were. Check out their websites, their Linkedin and any other social media presence they may have. Look for articles they’ve written or interviews they’ve given. If you discover they’ve quoted a book, read it. What they’ve done and experienced has helped them get to where they are today and there’s value in that information. After you’ve learned all you can about them on your own, consider reaching out to them personally.

2. In a career search, one way to find good advice would be through something called an Informational Interview.

An informational interview is different than a job interview in that there’s no specific job opportunity available. Rather, the conversation centers around learning about a particular field or career or even a company, so the interviewer can gain a better understanding of best practices and potential pitfalls. Usually, the interviewer comes away from an informational interview with some solid advice from someone who is or has been where they want to go. Approaching someone to interview can be scary, but you would be surprised at how often a complete stranger is willing to give you a few minutes of their time to give you insight into their chosen profession and tell you about their journey.

For more information about how to prepare and conduct an informational interview, check out What Color Is Your Parachute? 2019: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles.

3. Identify good teachers by identifying their students.

Finding a good teacher can be tricky. Forget about advertisements. They are often written by someone about themselves and who would ever say anything negative about themselves when they are advertising their own services? Instead, seek out (a) word of mouth referrals, (b) search for social media comments and reviews by their clients (and former clients) and most importantly (c) look at their students, especially long-time students. You would never intentionally get a haircut from someone if you knew all their clients had terrible haircuts. The same mentality applies when it comes to evaluating a teacher.

For instance, I’ve taken voice lessons on and off for decades. I found my current vocal coach because I heard someone sing and thought “Wow! I want to learn to do THAT!” I was drawn to excellence in a student’s performance and I wanted to know who their teacher was – I NEEDED to know who their teacher was.

If you are considering a teacher and none of their students are doing what you want to learn and doing it well, it could be that none of their students are talented or teachable, but the odds of that are slim. If you can’t find a single student of theirs who is demonstrating excellence, or at least growth, my personal advice is to find another teacher. If you still decide you want to work with them, don’t commit to a long-term student/teacher relationship with them immediately. A few lessons or classes during a trial period should tell you whether you are a good fit.

A Caveat:

If your teacher only ever gives you positive feedback, don’t settle for it. Compliments may make you FEEL better, but it won’t help you GET better. After all, if you were perfect, you wouldn’t need their help. Ask them directly to TELL you what weaknesses they see you struggle with and what you need to work on.

4.

Finally, if your teacher runs out of developmental feedback (constructive criticism), YOU’VE OUTGROWN THEM. It’s time to move on and find another teacher who will challenge you.

Want to improve? Give people permission to tell you the truth.
(And don’t punish them for it)

Give the people you trust permission to tell you the truth

Do you want to improve?

To get better at what you do?

If the only feedback you are receiving about the

work you are doing…
the risks you are taking…
the things you are creating…

is positive, consider that for a minute.

Is that what you want? Is that what you need?

How do you tell the difference between someone who’s being nice
and someone who’s telling the truth?

If you NEVER hear negative – or even neutral – feedback how do you know what you need to improve?

If you’ve been the victim of 100% positive feedback…
If you are a member of a group of people pleasing back patters…
If you ask counterfeit questions, like “Wasn’t that GREAT?!” when you ask someone for their opinion…

Consider the possibility that you have a subjective and unrealistic opinion of your finished product – whatever it is.

Consider the statistical improbability that you are doing everything so well what there’s absolutely no room for improvement.

As scary as it is, if you REALLY want to improve, seek developmental feedback.

But NOT from just anyone.

Ask people you trust.
Ask people who have experience in your industry or craft – either firsthand or through extensive observation.
Ask people who have no vested interest in the outcome of your decisions.

If they believe you are sincere in the asking…
If they have the courage to tell you the truth…

and the feedback isn’t 100% affirmation and praise,

DON’T PUNISH THEM FOR IT.

DON’T argue.
DON’T shut down.
DON’T assume they are wrong.
DON’T dismiss them as a credible resource.
DON’T dismiss the feedback.
DON’T ASSUME THEY DON’T LIKE YOU.

Consider. Search their words for all possible truth. If you’re really brave, seek out a second opinion – again – giving them permission to tell you the truth.

Ask for suggestions. Find qualified teachers and credible mentors. Set realistic long and short-term goals for improvement. Work toward them. Consistently.

Improvement is rarely easy. But in the end, the hard is what makes it great.

#memoryverse: Colossians 3:23 ~ as working for the Lord, not for men

Colossians 3 23 Work as Unto the Lord Bible text NIV#memoryverse

“Whatever you do,
work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord,
not for men”

Colossians 3:23 (NIV)


thoughts:

The first word that jumps into my head when I read this verse is: competence.

I’m not sure when I first figured out that – as someone who professes faith in Christ – everything I do and say reflects on Jesus. There were probably multiple factors involved in coming to that realization:

~ I remember when I was young and first began working in the legal industry, there were multiple highly educated, wealthy people who belittled my faith and spoke condescendingly to me as they expressed that they perceived me to be idealistic and naive because I believed in God and “wasted my time” serving in church. If I listened to the root message under the messages, it was always grounded in the opinion that the only people who believed in God were less educated, less “successful” in the business world and, well…perpetually stuck in a lower socioeconomic class. Those people were sad and underprivileged and believing in God made them feel better. An “opium for the people” kind of a thing.

~ This is really going to date me, but I remember sitting in a hair salon and being simultaneously and intensely challenged by multiple women to defend Christianity in light of the sex scandal involving revivalist evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, a prostitute and a hotel room. It blew me away that, based on his bad behavior, not only was my faith suspect, but Christian faith overall was being attacked and rejected. I realized with much clarity at that moment that Christians were being watched like prey and sometimes attacked for sport.

~ When my kids were little, I remember telling them that no matter where they are or who they are with, when they wear their school uniform, they represent their school. Their words and actions are a reflection on their school. It was a short connection to realize that because the uniform was printed with the name of a Christian school, the kids were described by those watching as “those kids from the Christian school.” The tone of voice was telling as to whether the statement was an indication of approval or disapproval. When the comment expressed approval, it was often spoken with pleasant surprise, while the disapproving comments were more sarcastic and dripping in “it figures” and “what do you expect?”

I’m sure I could think of more examples, but you get the idea. Back then and today, despite the number of Christians with advanced degrees, well-paying careers and lives suffused with gracious words and actions, they are very, very often thought of as uneducated, unskilled, poor, illogical, ignorant, unreasonable, undependable…the list could go on…

Colossians 3:23 reminds me that it’s possible to challenge and even change those perceptions. It’s possible for someone who professes faith in and dependence on Jesus to be viewed as intelligent, competent and dependable. But to intentionally and consistently “work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord,”

I need to:

as much as I am able,
as consistently as I am able,
– grounded in an acute awareness of my dependence on the Holy Spirit
    to equip me in mind, body and spirit, and
    to bless me with determination and stamina and resilience

Steve Martin Be So Good They Cant Ignore You1. Strive for competence and – ultimately, excellence – in everything I do,

– regardless of whether the work is directly related to ministry or whether the work is within a secular field.

– by not spreading myself so thin that I can’t come close to a standard of excellence or even achieve “good enough” status in one of my commitments, much less all of them.

2. Choose to speak edifying words – affirming progress as an indication of success, encouraging hope and motivating other people to strive for excellence – instead of

– complaining.

– expending time and effort calling (repeated and/or extended) attention to someone else’s shortcomings and mistakes.

– tearing people down.

And in the process of that striving and choosing, I find that

~ I’m letting go of the white-knuckled grip I have on my right to choose and I’m allowing myself to be conformed (by the Holy Spirit – not only by my own efforts) into the image of the son of God, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29),

~ I’m being a good steward of the gifts and talents God has blessed me with, (Matthew 25:14-30) and

~ I’m tangibly expressing genuine gratitude to God, for the countless blessings in this abundant life I’m living with Him – regardless of my circumstances. (Colossians 3:17)

Erma Bombeck I Used Everything You Gave MeI know I’m not the only follower of Jesus who is striving for excellence, extending grace, being conformed, being a good steward and expressing gratitude. My prayer is that every time a Christian hunter, or even just a non-believer, encounters one of us Jesus Freaks, the “with all our hearts” serves as a strong, positive evidence for authentic faith in Jesus Christ.