How To Be A Great Mentor

Michelle Dozois A Great Mentor

My amazing fitness mentor, Michelle Dozois.

Once in a rare while, you become fortunate enough to meet someone that takes you under his or her wing and helps you fly.

Less than a year ago, I moved to Pasadena, CA searching for a part-time job teaching fitness classes.  All the jobs I applied to online never responded back to me, and other places just didn’t have any available openings.  When I walked into Breakthru Fitness to ask about job opportunities, it just so happened that Michelle Dozois, the co-owner of Breakthru (with her husband, Phil Dozois), was available to talk on the spot.  Michelle came out to greet me, and she immediately struck me as a super positive, friendly, and enthusiastic individual.  After glancing at my resume, she was ready to set me up for a “try-out” one-on-one.  From there, I started happily teaching a few classes, not expecting anything more.

What makes my experience different is that Michelle saw a greater potential in me.  She immediately recruited me to assist in her signature Peak 10 classes, and soon after gave me a chance to help her with choreography.  All this has led me to the present day, where I never would have imagined having the privilege of filming several DVD’s or officially being an assistant choreographer for somebody!  For those of you that know me really well, this is a perfect job for me, huh???

I’ve learned so much from Michelle from a fitness industry standpoint, but also as an incredible mentor.  One day I hope I will have the opportunity to be an impromptu mentor to someone else, and help them grow into something they never could have predicted.

Here Are 10 Ways To Be A Great Mentor

1) Be Genuinely Enthusiastic

It all starts with the mentor’s attitude and the mentee follows the lead.  Mentors can’t positively influence someone if it is even slightly noticeable that they are disengaged or uninterested.  Michelle’s personality is contagious, which is probably why she is such a successful figure in the fitness industry. 

2) Find a Connection

Mentors look beyond the resume, the small talk, and the work-at-hand, and find some similarity with one another, i.e. hobbies, family, interests, etc.  Michelle and I were both ex-cheerleaders, ex-gymnasts, and ex-dancers so we really spoke the same language from day one.

3) Build Confidence

Mentors focus on bringing out the mentee’s strengths, encouraging him or her to do whatever they are best at, even during negative situations.  Initially one of my new class formats I taught was not pulling in enough attendance.  Instead of just cancelling the class, Michelle guided me to choose another format I was more comfortable teaching.

4) Take One Step At a Time

Set and establish long-term goals and then help the mentee grow by adding small challenges or new tasks.  Mentors make sure each new task is realistic and achievable, not asking the mentee to grow from A to Z at once.  Michelle started by having me just participate in her Peak 10 classes to experience the program.  Then I started assisting the instructors while they taught classes.  Now I help to choreograph the routines.

5) Guide Vs. Micromanage

Mentors should not try to clone themselves.  Leave room for mentees to have some creativity, flexibility, or add their own personality into the work-at-hand.  When I choreograph for Michelle, she gives me a little bit of direction for what the piece should accomplish, ie. stretching, upper body strength, core work, etc., but otherwise I start with a pretty clean slate and just make up any moves I feel would work.

6) Give Constructive Criticism

Mentors should provide feedback, both positive and negative, so that mentees know what they are doing right and how to improve.  Negative feedback should be constructive and mentors should provide specific examples to fix the problems.  Choreography is a multiple-draft process.  After I finish choreographing, Michelle and I review it together and she tells me which parts will work and which ones won’t.  We work together to come up with movements that might work better.  This process continues several times until the piece is finally perfected.

7) Share Your Experiences

There is so much to learn from YOU.  Share your story, your challenges, your failures, your successes, and your life, so long as it is appropriate for the mentee to learn from.  Mentees will be thankful for your honesty and openness.  I really appreciate that Michelle isn’t always work work work and takes time to share some of the struggles she goes through.

8) Show Recognition

Doesn’t everyone want to feel appreciated?  Mentors should praise and reward mentees whenever appropriate, whether it is through compliments, bonuses, or surprises.  One time Michelle and I were scheduled to meet together to videotape some choreography, but at the last minute she couldn’t make it and I filmed it by myself.  Afterwards, Michelle unexpectedly offered to pay for 10 sessions of childcare as a way to say thank you.  Wow!

9) Send Recommendations

Look out for opportunities that mentees would benefit from without expecting anything in return.  I am grateful that Michelle forwards different fitness jobs to me and she always puts in a good word. 

10) Keep Your Heart Open

Mentors don’t always have to be the teacher.  Allow yourself to be open to learning something new from your experience with your mentee.  When mentors and mentees learn to work together harmoniously, both parties benefit!  Although I feel like I benefit primarily from our relationship together, Michelle has expressed that she appreciates the time saved from having someone else help with choreography.

It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.  – Napoleon Hill

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