Fabian Pfortmüller on Learning to Work With Coaches and Mentors

In Chapter 9 of 15 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, community builder and entrepreneur Fabian Pfortmüller answers "At This Moment in Life, Where Are You Seeking Advice and Coaching?"  Pfortmüller is learning to take advice and coaching more seriously after realizing, as an entrepreneur, he has been learning by doing when, in fact, learning from others may often be more effective.  He details how he engages his mentor and peer support networks to make the respective relationships more valuable.  Pfortmüller is co-founder of the young leader accelerator, Sandbox Network, and HOLSTEE, an apparel and design firm that sells meaningful products to mindful shoppers.  Pfortmüller graduated from Columbia University and its school of General Studies. 


Erik Michielsen: At this moment in life, where are you seeking advice and coaching?

Fabian Pfortmüller: Where I stand right now, I realize that advice and coaching actually is more and more important and I start to take it more seriously and I start to more proactively look for it. I realized over the last year that I as an entrepreneur have been very often learning by doing and very often there is no need to do it the first time yourself because so many people have done it before and I think looking to other people to learn from them, also to books or existing sources of learning has been a big change in my life.

I look for mentors on two levels, on the one hand more senior people. I've been fortunate to have a few very senior people supporting me for several years now. I usually try to interact with them and talk with them in a very informal setting. So, we meet over breakfast or we meet for dinner where I think the more open I can be the more valuable that relationship is. Also the more I can show what is not going well, the more valuable it is for me.

The other group of people that is really supportive and has been extremely helpful is a peer community like Sandbox where people are my age or even younger than I am but they are going through the same things and the more and more I start to really take advantage of that peer group. It’s working with mentors and working with coaches for me has a lot to do with being able to show weaknesses, being able to formulate what you’re not good at and being able to formulate your challenges and that’s something that I have to learn. It’s not something that I can just do by nature.