Everyone can use a little guidance from time to time, and massage therapists are no exception. Massage therapists, especially those who are self-employed, can benefit greatly from having at least one mentor. Personally, I have about 20; I call them my board of directors.
So what is a mentor? Almost anyone can be a mentor. In fact, most people have had a mentor at one time or another in their lives, whether they knew it or not. By the same token, most people have also been mentors.
When I first started out after massage school, I really didn't know what I was doing with regard to the business side of massage. I knew my modality, and I could administer a session with skill, but getting clients in the door was something different altogether.
After trying unsuccessfully to land a job at a spa, I ended up renting a treatment room from a very successful massage therapist named Robert, who practiced in the Boston, Massachusetts, area. As it turned out, Robert was my first business mentor.
Every day I would come in a little early to talk with him about what I could do to get my practice off the ground, and he would always have suggestions for me. Sometimes he'd give me the names of local businessmen who might be interested in some on-site chair massage for their employees. Other times, he'd tell me what marketing techniques worked best for him and why. He invited me to go to chamber-of-commerce networking meetings, so I could meet other professionals. However, most of the time, he would tell me stories of all the things he would have done better when he first started out.
Other mentors have come and gone in the years since Boston, and I have learned much from all of them. Some of my mentors have helped me become a better teacher, a better bodyworker, a better coach, a better entrepreneur and some have even helped me simply become a better person.
In all the years since I first met Robert, I have noticed a few common traits among all of the people in my life who have mentored me along the way. The most significant trait of good mentors is they truly want you to be the best you can be. They want you to succeed and grow, and they are in no way intimidated or threatened by your victories and triumphs. They are also, by the same token, never vested in your successes.
I coach a lot of massage therapists who are typically either just starting out or looking to expand their practice. As their mentor, I want them to succeed, so I always give them 100 percent. A good mentor should not feel threatened by the successes of the people they mentor, because their successes will not jeopardize the success of one's own massage practice. Good mentors also should not base their fees on how successful their mentorees become. Doing so would quickly erode the professional boundaries of the relationship.
Another quality of good mentors is they will never judge you. In a compassionately detached way, they will pass on what they have learned and then quietly sit back while you decide whether or not to use that knowledge. If they judge or criticize you for making a mistake, they cannot achieve their true aim, which is to help you cultivate within yourself a purposeful and resolute sense of self-reliance. Mentors will give you the best advice they can, but ultimately it's you who has to make the decision and take action.
Good mentors also tend to exhibit lots of patience and optimism. As you make your way through life, you're bound to make some mistakes-we all do. An effective mentor will gently push you forward, while keeping you focused on what's working in your life and practice.
Whether you need a mentor to help you with business decisions or you're doing some personal-growth work, find the best people you can and learn as much as you can from them.
Keep in mind your mentors don't actually need to know they're your mentors. I've never met many of my board of directors, but that doesn't mean they didn't have a positive and profound impact on my life. My board includes executives, authors, talk show hosts, teachers and speakers, as well as family members and close friends. They have all played the role of mentor at some point in my life, and I have benefitted greatly from their wisdom and expertise.