Being a mentor can be casual or formal. It can take up a little time or a lot. There are many different ways to inspire trainers who are new to the field. Perhaps you still feel fairly new yourself? Or maybe you feel comfortable and it is time. Time for you to step up and become a mentor.
What is a mentor?
Mentors are individuals we all need to help us grow in ways we are unable to do on our own. Mentors encourage us to realize our potential, motivate us to sharpen our skills and soften our edges, and – perhaps most importantly – enjoy the pursuit of excellence in all endeavors we chase. My mentors helped me overcome professional challenges that would have otherwise held me back from achieving my goals.
Who can be a mentor?
Seasoned personal trainers have the opportunity to mentor younger trainers who are new or semi-new to the field. Being a mentor doesn’t mean you are the know-it-all or the “Grand Puba” – at least it shouldn’t. Ask yourself this.
*Have you achieved that point in your career in which you are capable of being unselfish with your knowledge and experience?
*Are you comfortable enough to share your professional missteps with the intention of helping a new trainer grow?
The next time you enter your studio, gym, or classroom, think about ways in which you can offer your services to your colleagues and – in turn – evaluate in what personal or professional areas you would benefit from mentor ship.
Mentoring Strategies and Ideas
Share Ideas, Information, and Resources
New trainers enter the field with a freshly minted certificate and a significant amount of book knowledge, which differs greatly from practical knowledge. It’s likely that a new professional will understand all the components of a well-rounded workout program, but putting those pieces together into a program that makes sense for each individual client is a challenge. Share ideas you have for infusing creativity into program design.
Think back to your first attempts at workout programs and ask yourself the following questions:
- What went well?
- What went awry?
- What would I change knowing what I know now?
You can expect many new trainers will make similar mistakes or overlook a critical factor. Offer to review their initial program designs and provide fair and balanced feedback. Without violating client-trainer confidentiality, ask your mentee for scant details – risk profile, age, gender, goals, etc.
Ask for Input
Even the best and most experienced trainers can “hit a wall” when it comes to cultivating new and fresh ideas to try with their clients. If you are working with a trainer who is new to the field, ask for his or her input and ideas. Creativity is not necessarily related to the years of experience one has in the field – it’s more related to how we view challenges and how we think through a process. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and say “I’m stuck. What do you think?”. It’ll help cultivate confidence for someone who is fresh to the field and establish a natural relationship between the two of you.
Create a Shadow Experience
Students typically remember more of what they say and do versus what they read. Apply this principle and create a “lab practical” in the field. Ask new trainers to shadow you during a few of your training sessions. Have them take “SOAP” notes and set aside some time to review the notes with them. It’s astounding what students learn and observe during such an experience.
Remember – always ask your clients if they are comfortable allowing a second set of eyes and ears to participate in their sessions. Do this before you invite a new trainer to observe. This technique is close to my heart because, as a college educator for over 15 years, I’ve seen the results of these types of experiences and, trust me, nothing will warm your heart more than to see a younger professional “get it” and apply it successfully.
I’m not suggesting “small talk” here. Asking questions means asking open-ended questions that provoke deeper thought and reflection. Take the time to ask a new trainer how he or she is feeling about their professional processes. Work to investigate what areas they may be struggling with and evaluate how you may be able to provide some solid guidance and leadership. Make them truly feel comfortable to ask questions and come to you for assistance. Learning should not be scary and it isn’t if we have teachers who share knowledge with compassion and go the extra mile to genuinely help someone else succeed. We all succeed this way. Again, a win-win.
Confidence isn’t something you learn from a book. It’s something that is built slowly – through experience and, most importantly, as a result of mistakes. Nurture a new trainer’s confidence by offering praise for a job well done or acknowledging the hard work invested in a tough task such as working with a challenging client (we’ve all had them). Share funny stories of your first experiences as a trainer and talk about how you overcame it and moved on. Or, help him or her process a challenging day. Whatever your approach, make it your goal to help end the day with a smile and a renewed sense of self-efficacy.
Being a professional is more about behavior than it is about knowledge or appearance. But beyond that, the value of being a professional is rooted in how we help to shape the future of the field and that includes taking new trainers under our wings and guiding them to greatness. In turn, teaching is reciprocal. I’ve always believed I learn more about myself and more from my students than they learn from me. Find the teacher in you – it’s worth the effort in a thousand meaningful ways.