A good mentor can help you navigate organizational complexities. (Photo: Shutterstock)
I recently received the question below from a reader. I figure if one person asked it, others may well have it too. A good mentor can be an excellent career asset in helping you navigate the sometimes choppy, confusing waters of sizable organizations. If you feel the need for a mentor, I highly recommend having one. Here’s the question.
I work in a somewhat dysfunctional environment and am trying to find a mentor to help me better understand the company and help me with my career. How do I go about finding one?
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1. The simplest way: Ask your manager whom he or she would recommend. (This method may or may not be appropriate, depending on your relationship with your manager. But if you do have a good solid working relationship and respect his or her judgment, I’d start here.)
2. Work with Human Resources. Assuming your company has an HR Department (most organizations do), contact them and ask for help in this matter. HR usually is well aware of a company’s mentoring options and may even have specialists whose role it is to help employees with such situations. During my own corporate career I worked closely with HR many times on many issues, and was virtually always satisfied with the support I received.
3. If there’s someone else in your company – a manager or executive either in your part of the operation or in another area – whom you highly respect and feel you could learn from, just go ahead and ask them yourself if they’ll mentor you. (For full transparency, I would recommend letting your direct manager know you intend to do this.) Such approaches aren’t as unusual as they may seem. Many managers/executives will be pleased by the positive attention and glad to help you out. Over the years I was asked a number of times by employees to do this, and I always felt that if someone thought enough of me to ask for mentoring assistance, it was the least I could to help them as best I could.
Bottom line, there’s no reason to not have a mentor if you want one. As I mentioned, they can definitely provide valuable career guidance – I know they did for me.
Two last points. Before making a final decision on a mentoring relationship, be sure you feel the mentor who’s been offered (for example by HR) is the right fit for you. Meaning you trust and respect the individual, and feel a natural rapport with him or her. Mentoring only works when there’s a genuine positive connection.
Also, you mentioned in your note that your organization was “somewhat dysfunctional.” If in fact it becomes too dysfunctional for you, that’s probably an issue a mentor can’t help with, and it may be time to vote with your feet, as the saying goes, and move on.
Most people misunderstand mentoring — I certainly did. For the longest time, I said I wanted a mentor but didn’t understand what that even meant. That is, until someone pulled me aside, invested in me, and taught me what a mentor really was.
I see a lot of young people approaching mentoring the wrong way.
They ask a leader they admire to mentor them, forcing the person into an awkward position in which she feels bad for saying “no” or obligated to say “yes.” But this is not how mentoring works.
Common misconceptions of mentoring
I have a passion to see that change. There is a lot of misunderstanding about how mentoring works, including how to begin a relationship with a mentor. Here are some of them:
- Mentoring is about me.
- I need to wait for a mentor to find me.
- Being mentored is more passive than active.
- I need to ask someone to mentor me up-front.
Face it: Everything you know about mentoring may be wrong. It’s time to start seeking out a mentor the right way. In finding a mentor, there are 10 important steps I’ve found that usually work:
1. Find someone you want to be like
Don’t just find someone who has a job you want or a platform that you covet.
Find someone that is like you, someone with a similar set of strengths and skills you want to emulate. Otherwise, you’ll just end up frustrated.
Spend some time finding the right person. In fact, have several candidates before committing to a single mentor.
2. Study the person
Follow his blog. Get to know people who know him.
If you don’t know the person well, see if he is really like his public persona projects.
Make sure you understand his strengths and weaknesses. Set your expectations realistically.
3. Make the “ask”
Don’t ask for the person to “be your mentor” right off the bat. That’s a big ask. Far too big for the first meeting.
Rather, ask for an initial meeting — something informal, over coffee maybe. Keep it less than an hour.
Come with questions that you’re prepared to ask, but let the conversation flow relationally. (Note: the formality really depends on the potential mentor’s communication style — something you should be aware of before the initial meeting.)
When in doubt about when to make the ask, just go for it. (That’s what I do, and it usually works.)
4. Evaluate the fruit
After meeting, do you want to spend more time with this person?
Did she begin the meeting by encouraging you or telling you what to do? Did she ask questions, or wait to provide answers?
Did you leave the meeting feeling better about yourself? Was a connection made? If not, feel free to let the relationship go and seek out someone else, instead. You don’t have time to waste on a self-centered tyrant.
If it went well, then immediately put together a follow-up plan.
5. Follow up after the meeting
This is not like dating. It’s okay to appear overly ambitious. You want this person to know that you’re serious.
It’s appropriate to follow up immediately, thanking your prospective mentor for her time.
A good way to do this is via email or other form of passive communication, so that you don’t appear overbearing or waste the person’s time.
This is also a good time to mention that you’d like to do it again. If she reciprocates, offer to get something on the calendar. (You may need to suggest a time.)
Make sure that it feels relaxed and not contrived. You’re still vetting each other at this point.
6. Let the relationship evolve organically
We sometimes place too high of expectations on mentoring. We want to give it a name, because it gives us a sense of status and importance. But really it’s just a relationship.
Mentoring is organic. It’s healthy to let it grow like any other relationship — over time and based on mutual respect and trust.
Don’t force it. That will kill a potential mentoring relationship faster than anything. Give it time; it needs to grow.
7. Don’t check out when you feel challenged
I was recently speaking with a friend who’s mentored a number of young men over the years. He said the saddest part about what he does is that a lot of guys check out whenever he challenges them.
It will happen. You’ll get to a point where your mentor will feel comfortable enough to call you out. And what you do next is crucial to your growth.
Remember: this is what you signed up for. Don’t wimp out when it gets tough; this is where the really good stuff happens.
8. Press into relationship
Don’t wait for the mentor to initiate. Learn how to manage up. Persevere. Ask for more of your mentor without demanding it.
This doesn’t bother him (at least, it shouldn’t). It honors him. It shouldn’t be a big deal to ask this person to coffee or lunch, outside of your normal meeting time.
If a mentor can’t be a friend, then he’s probably not a mentor. Finding ways to solidify the bond you’ve created will only strengthen the relationship.
9. Ask your mentor for feedback
Feedback can be hard, but it’s good. As your relationship with your mentor progresses, this will be the #1 way you grow. It will be a highlight for the both of you.
While asking for feedback may initially feel weird, eventually it will become almost second-nature. You will find yourself thirsting for those words you used to fear.
Similarly, a good mentor will treat these times with great care and sensitivity.
10. Commit to the process
You can’t be mentored in a summer. That’s an internship. Mentoring takes real time and real work.
In order for it to be a real mentorship, you have to commit to the relationship. Come hell or high water, you’re going to make it work.
Then, you will begin to understand what it means to be a student, a disciple, a protege.
Do you have a mentor? How did you find him or her? Share your mentoring experience in the comments.
The Trick To Finding The Perfect Mentor
A great mentor can change your life; he or she can awaken potential in you that you didn’t even know was there. In fact, most successful people had someone show them the ropes along the way.
Having a mentor provides a lot of great benefits. Some of these include having someone to learn from that’s been there before, having a solid soundboard to help you make tough decisions, and last but certainly not least, having access to new doors/contacts.
If you find a great mentor and are able to leverage them for the above benefits, you will find success in whatever you do. However, finding a great mentor is much easier said than done. Many times, those who are successful or in positions of powers have little free time and are very selective of who they spend their time with.
I am blessed to have a great network of mentors who have been instrumental in my business success. Here are some tips & lessons I’ve learned about finding a great mentor.
Look Within Your Organization
If you happen to work inside a medium-to-large organization, one of the most obvious places to find a mentor is right inside the company you work for. It’s a tale as old as time: an older executive takes a very young employee under their wing, and a couple of years later that young employee finds himself in an executive position. Sometimes this mentor can be someone that you directly report to, but not always. I’d advise trying to befriend and become a mentee to the person who has your dream job. For example, you want to run marketing for a company some day, so do your best to get to know the CMO or VP of Marketing of the company you work for.
When I started my first job out of college, I knew I eventually wanted to start my own company. I did my best to try to spend as much time with the CEO as I could. I learned as much as possible from him and four years later, when I finally left to start my own company, he became one of our biggest advisers/supporters. Keep in mind that my previous employer only had about 200 employees, so this would have been extremely hard to do at a Fortune 500 company, but the fact remains the same: one of the best places to find a mentor is within the company you’re already at.
Attend Networking Events
One of the best and easiest ways to meet mentors and successful people face to face is by attending networking events in your industry. These come in several forms, such as a mixer or a speaking engagement where one of the speakers can be a potential mentor. These networking events are great because they allow you to easily get one-on-one time with successful people that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to meet.
However, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. A potential mentor probably won’t just come up to you as you’re standing by yourself at a bar table. Also, often at these types of events, the more successful individuals usually have many people hovering around them trying to meet and talk with them. This means you can’t be a pushover and you need to be sure that you put yourself out there and have a memorable encounter with them.
One more thing to remember is that the more exclusive the event, the greater the chance that the attendees will be people of power. Sometimes this means that you have to find a way to finesse yourself into these events.
LinkedIn Outreach + Cold Email
The process of finding a great mentor, especially if they are very successful, is a lot like selling a product to a customer. It’s okay to reach out to someone that you admire or respect. One of the best places to find potential mentors online is through LinkedIn. Another one of my mentors is someone who I met through a cold message on this very site.
Everybody who’s anybody is on LinkedIn, and it makes them very accessible. You can use LinkedIn’s filters to find specific executives at very large companies and send them requests to connect. If you have any mutual connections with them, you can always ask your mutual connections for an introduction, as these go a very long way.
Lastly, if you’re not able to get your connection request through or you have no mutual connections to facilitate an introduction, I’d suggest downloading the widget Leadfinch. Leadfinch is a cool tool I use to extract email addresses from LinkedIn pages.
Once you have their email addresses, you can send a cold email asking to meet. When sending cold emails to potential mentors, make it clear that you’re not selling them something. Tell them that they are someone you admire and you simply want to meet to pick their brain or get their take on something specific.
Always remember, “Ask for money and get advice, ask for advice and get money.”
A career mentor is someone who shares their knowledge and expertise with you in order to help you set goals, fix problems, and make good choices along your career path. I have been privileged to have career mentors who have helped me throughout my career.
Career Mentors Teach About Business
The first was my supervisor many years ago. He taught me just about everything I know about business and about communicating effectively with people. He also helped me move up the career ladder at our company, helped with my job search, and continued to provide advice when I moved on.
Another person who mentored me was someone with vast experience writing about careers. When she and I first met, I had recently transitioned from Human Resources, and she shared her advice and wisdom. Over the years, she has also helped promote my expertise, my books, and my other work. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the assistance of my career mentors.
A good career mentor, just like my mentors, voluntarily provides career advice and assistance. The relationship you’ll have with your mentor will be ongoing—your mentor can guide you throughout the life of your career. It’s a relationship that can last a very long time. A mentor can be indispensable both when you’re starting out and when you’re moving up the career ladder.
How do you find a mentor? It can be easier than you think. Brian Kurth, founder, VocationVacations Career Mentorship Experiences, and author of “Test-Drive Your Dream Job: A Step-By-Step Guide to Finding and Creating the Work You Love,” shares his tips and advice on finding a career mentor:
Who and How to Ask for Help
Perhaps the most important step in pursuing a dream job is to find someone who already works in that field who can offer guidance and advice as you proceed. I know that sounds intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Believe it or not, this is not as difficult as it might sound.
In my experience, many people express fear at the prospect of asking a total stranger for help as a prospective mentor. Why would they want to help you, after all? The answer is easy: People like helping other people.
By asking a prospective mentor for help, you’re letting them know you admire them for what they do and that their career is in demand. It’s a good feeling, and many people are happy knowing their experiences and insights are valuable to others.
It’s not universal, of course, and not everyone will see it this way. You may run into a person you think might be a mentorship candidate who doesn’t care what people think and isn’t interested in helping you along your career path. But as you continue asking around, you’ll be surprised at just how receptive many people are.
Of course, not all mentor candidates will be strangers. You may have a former boss, professor, family member, or friend who may be able to help you.
Tips for Finding a Good Career Mentor
Even with a few words of encouragement, the idea of searching for and finding a career mentor may seem scary, so here are a few tips to get you started:
- If you’re brand new or changing careers, it may be a good idea to research the field and find out about the top people who are in it.
- Learn what you can about their background, education, and even common interests.
- Create a list of people who seem like they might be good fits for you and your career goals.
- Start contacting the people on your list but go slowly with each one. Start with a polite and formal email to introduce yourself and see who responds.
- Be patient—your potential mentor candidates may be busy, and it could take a day or two for any of them to respond.
- Try to form a relationship with them and get to know their personalities even as you try to exhibit yours. Like so many other things, when you find the right mentor, you’ll know it.
The guidance and advice from a good career mentor may be just what you need to guide you through your next set of career steps. Good luck, and who knows—maybe someday someone will be contacting you to be their mentor.
Mentors are an important part of personal and professional development. They are guides through times when people need someone that is able to point them in the right direction. Good mentors are enthusiastic people, enjoying the role they play in helping others achieve their goals.
There are many qualities of a good mentor. While considering a mentor, look for someone who is enthusiastic, a good fit, respectful of others and a respected expert in their field. This will help you get the results you want and hopefully create a beneficial relationship for both you and your chosen mentor.
Mentors Should Be Enthusiastic About the Role
When you are looking for a mentor, you should key in on one very important aspect of the possible mentor’s personality. They need to be enthusiastic—almost to the point of being too enthusiastic.
You should feel their sincerity in the way they present their desire to help you. Good mentors are passionate about their yearning to help others and receive their rewards not in the form of materialistic items or money, but in seeing the people they have helped become successful.
A Mentor Should Fit You
You may have many people to choose from when you are shopping for a mentor. This can be similar to shopping for a shirt. If you find a style you like, the one that fits might be at the middle of the pile or be the last one you look at.
Many people will try to manipulate you over your life and career, trying to become an influencer and develop you in the way that worked for them, or that they think is best.
A good mentor will create a strategy that fits your needs, talents, skills, and desires and push you towards a better you—not towards a clone of themselves.
Mentors Value Learning
Good mentors are life-long learners and should want to pass that desire on to everyone they come in contact with. They should realize that while they are experts, they cannot possibly know everything.
A valuable trait in a mentor (and to be frank, in everyone else) is the understanding that it is ok to be an expert and not know something. A mentor that can answer a question with, “I don’t know, but I will find you an answer” is someone worth spending time with.
Good mentors will be excited to share their knowledge with you and be willing to explore the possibility that you may have answers that they do not. A mentor that will learn from their mentee is indeed worthy of your respect and time.
Mentors Encourage You To Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
All people have a zone in which they operate and live in. They are comfortable and able to excel in this zone. This is called a comfort zone.
To grow, you’ll need to need to step outside of your comfort zone to be able to have new experiences and learn. A good mentor is capable of identifying your comfort zone and developing steps and activities within your goals that will force you to become comfortable outside of your zone.
They Are Active Listeners
A mentor needs to be able to listen to what you are saying. They should be involved in the conversation, prompting you for clarity or more information.
They shouldn’t be distracted when you are talking to them. A person that is always allowing themselves to be interrupted by phones, emails, or people walking by when in a session with you is not actively listening.
A good mentor will not have any distractions when you are talking with them, focusing on you and taking part in the conversation. They will ask questions, reflect on your answers and even give you some silence when you need to think.
Mentors Know How to Provide Feedback
Everyone can benefit from feedback. Even the most skilled and knowledgeable person is a beginner at something, requiring feedback to continue to grow in their new skills.
Feedback is essential to improvement. A mentor should create long-term objectives and short-term goals with you to help you become the expert you want to be.
Feedback should be provided during each session with your mentor. It should not be degrading, but should simply inform you of a shortcoming, and identify corrective actions you can take to be more successful the next time.
They Treat Others Respectfully
Respect for others is not limited to mentors, but it should be on your list of requirements for yours.
Mentors should know how to be tactful in their conversations, and be emotionally intelligent. Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of emotions in others and oneself, and be able to make decisions and influence others while controlling emotions and feeling empathy for those they are dealing with.
Mentors shouldn’t be judgemental of others, voice their opinions of people, or talk down to you about others. “Don’t do this like John does, he’s not very good at this.” This is not helpful to you or John, and violates the privacy expected from a mentor.
They Are Experts In Their Field
Mentors are not just respectful, enthusiastic people. They should be considered an expert in their field, and be in the same field you are hoping to become an expert in. It is possible for a mentor to not be in an expert in the field you work in and provide excellent guidance, but you generally should stick with an expert in your field.
Your choice of a mentor should be respected by their peers, and yours. If you choose a mentor that is not well-known in the industry, you may not get the results you desire. Many people use mentors not only as guides to develop themselves but to associate themselves with the name of that mentor.
If your field is archeology, and your mentor is Dr. Jones (the respected and well-known professor and archeologist), you’ll have the benefit of being the doctor’s protege. This gives you much-needed credibility while ensuring that you have been instructed and guided correctly.
However, if Dr. Jones (the archeologist who discovered a 10-year-old basket of plastic eggs behind a bush in his backyard) is your mentor, you might not find yourself receiving the guidance or experience you were hoping for.
A few months ago we wrote about the importance of a mentor in a man’s life. Figuring out what it means to be a man can be tough. And it’s arguably tougher for men today, who are often more socially isolated, don’t have as many friends, and don’t have strong relationships with their fathers and other male relatives. It’s therefore more important than ever for every man to seek out mentors to help him navigate the complicated waters of manliness and life.
Mentors have the experience and wisdom to give us sound guidance, direction, and advice. Mentors can also help us expand our point of view on a particular area of our life. Moreover, a mentor can become a good friend and confidant during times when we struggle and falter.
So having a mentor is quite important. The tricky part is, how do you find one? Here’s a suggested road map.
How to Find a Mentor
1. Determine what sort of mentor you’re looking for. We all have different facets of our lives. Work, school, spirituality, family, etc. Ask yourself what area of your life needs improvement and could benefit from a mentor. And it doesn’t have to be a specific area of your life like career or church. Perhaps you’re just looking for a mentor to help you be an all around better man. That’s fine.
2. Draw up a list of three men that you’d like to mentor you. Think of all the men you know that might be able to help you in the area that you’re looking for some mentoring in. Guys that you’ve always looked up to or admired and wish you had a better relationship with. If you’re looking for a mentor to help you in your career, look around at the men you know at work that have been in the game awhile and know the ropes. If you’re a student, you might want to pick a professor that really inspires you academically. If you’re looking for a mentor to help you be an overall better man, simply think of the men you know and admire. While we often think of a mentor as being older than us, a mentor can be a guy the same age as you, who just has his life together a bit more or who lives his life in a way you really admire. Also, don’t stick with men that are exactly like you. One of the benefits of a mentor is that they can help expand your point of view.
3. Write down how each mentor could help you grow as a man. Think of the traits each man has that you wish to learn. Do some research on them. Do they come from a similar background as you? Do they have unique experiences that can broaden your conception and understanding of success in a particular area of your life? Have they had any setbacks similar to yours? What is it exactly about this person that makes you want him to be your mentor? This will come in handy when you finally get around to asking.
4. Figure out what you expect from the mentor relationship. Before you ask someone to be your mentor, you need to know what he should expect from the relationship. How often would you like to meet with him? Once a week? Once a month? How do you want the mentoring to take place? A discussion over lunch? Email? A monthly phone call? When you’re deciding this, take into account the men you’re asking to be your mentor and what will work for them. If you know one man is particularly busy, you wouldn’t want to ask that he meet with you once a week.
5. Ask the first man on your list. After you’ve done all your prep work, it’s time to ask. Whether you call, email, or a write a letter to do the asking will depend on each person. Some older men might be “old school” and prefer a phone call or letter over email. If they’re younger and a bit tech savvy, email is just fine.
Tell your prospective mentor that you’re looking for a mentor in “x” area of your life and that you think he’d be a good one. Explain why you think he’d be a good mentor by sharing some of the positive traits about him that you wrote down. People love to be praised!
If you get some positive feedback from your prospective mentor about the relationship, go on and start discussing logistics. Explain what you’re hoping to get out of the mentorship and get an idea of what he’d like to get out of it as well. Synchronize schedules and how you two plan to carry out the mentorship. The more clear you are at the beginning, the less likely for awkward moments down the line.
If asking someone so directly to be your mentor makes you feel awkward (or you think it might make them feel uncomfortable) then just ask the man to have lunch or hang out some time. Start dropping by the professor’s office or your co-worker’s cubicle for chats. And the relationship will hopefully develop naturally from there.
6. Expect rejection. Don’t’ get discouraged and don’t take it personally if people say no. People are busy these days, and they just might not have time to be a mentor. If the first man says no, go on to the second.
7. Say “thank you.” No matter if you get a no or a yes, be sure to thank the person.
Now, it might not be possible to find a mentor in just one day, but let’s at least get started on it.
Here’s your 30 Days to a Better Man-Day 3 task in a nutshell:
- Pick an area in your where you think a mentor can help you and draw up a list of three potential mentors.
- Describe why you think they’d be good.
- By the end of the 24 hours, contact this mentor. Send an email or letter, call them, or drop by their office. You don’t actually have to visit with them during this day, but make contact with them in some form.
This is our most difficult task so far, as for many of you, it will involve going outside of your comfort zone. But remember your commitment! You can’t stay in your comfort zone and grow and become a better man.
Listen to our podcast on the power of mentoring:
Literarily everyone needs a mentor at one stage in their life. For entrepreneurs, turning a passion into a business is the ultimate dream. But that dream doesn’t come easily. It’s hard work, and there are challenges around every corner. Fortunately, entrepreneurs don’t have to do it alone. Their chance of success increases when they find the right business mentor to guide them through certain stages of development while growing the business.
A mentor is a coach, guide, tutor, facilitator, counselor and trusted advisor. A mentor is someone willing to spend his or her time and expertise to guide the development of another person on aspects of business, or life. An effective mentor understands that his or her role is to be dependable, engaged, authentic, and tuned into the needs of the mentee.
What is the role of a Mentor?
Working with a mentor can be an invaluable experience for both parties. The mentor and mentee will likely learn new things about themselves and each other that will help them move toward business or career goals. But to make the relationship work, each party needs to understand the role they play. The mentor function comprises multiple roles;
1. A Role Model: An effective mentor is someone that is accomplished, admired and respected in his/her chosen path or position (business or career). Mentees will often look for a set of habits, approaches, style and skills that the mentor exhibits and that the mentee wishes to emulate and practice.
2. A Sponsor: Mentors are influential people in their area of expertise. One of the major roles of a good mentor involves helping the mentee to open doors, referring the mentee to other business partnerships, promoting the mentee’s business in ways possible.
3. An Advocate: Good mentors may choose to do more than just interact with their mentee. They must actively and wisely foster support for the mentee, influencing and promoting the mentee’s reputation, capabilities, and worth.
How to find a good business mentor
Mentors are indispensable when you’re launching a new business. They’ll help you understand the field you are into, guide you through what you need to do personally and professionally in order to succeed, and often just lend an ear when you need to talk about problems, issues, and successes.
There are a number of different ways to find a mentor. The most obvious is through your professional network – both on and offline. These can be a former boss, senior colleague or a friend. Other ways to find good business mentors include business conferences, seminars, professional platforms like LinkedIn and Meet-Ups.
Characteristics of a Good Mentor
A good mentor is a gift from the Universe. If you find one, do everything you can to convince them that it is worth their while to mentor you. Here are 7 characteristics (in no particular order) of a good mentor:
1. Available: Good mentors are available. They are never too busy to invest their time in you. A good mentor should be someone that is available either by phone, email or in person when needed.
2. Good Listener: By being a good listener is one of the most important characteristics of a good business mentor. By so doing, he or she enables the mentee to articulate any problem and sort things out.
3. Respectful: Each person is unique – a good mentor respect the mentee’s wishes or opinions and don’t push too hard when there advise is against the desire of the mentee.
4. Considerate: Good mentors understand that sometimes life goes wrong and they give you space to deal with life’s problems. They are sympathetic (to a point).
5. Demanding: Good mentors push you outside your comfort zone. They understand that growth occurs outside the comfort zone.
6. Good communicators: Good mentors are able to communicate complex concepts in a language you understand and are in constant communication with you.
7. Likeable: You need to like your mentor. A good mentor is someone you like being around.
If you’re building any kind of business, you are going to need advice at some point down the line. A mentoring relationship shouldn’t be entered into for its own sake, however. Map out your business goals then think about how a mentor can help you get there. Be specific about how you’d like your mentor to help.
Good mentors are hard to come by because being a mentor can be very time-consuming. Before you ask someone to become your mentor make sure you are willing to take direction from them otherwise you will just be wasting everyone’s time.
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Top 10 Qualities of a Good Mentor
A good mentoring relationship provides new employees as well as interns with someone that will share their professional knowledge and expertise in the field. A good mentor is available to answer any questions relevant to the job. Good mentor-mentee relationships are a two way street; consequently, if you want a good relationship with your mentor, become a good mentee. This requires a genuine interest in your mentor and a willingness to do what it takes to become successful as an intern or new employee in the field. Following suggestions and recommendations as well as reading all pertinent literature available in the field is a good way to show your mentor that you are committed to being successful and that you take your career and responsibilities seriously.
Bernie Browning absolutely set me on the right Franchise path I’ve never imagined for myself. I’m still amazed – and grateful- that meeting just one person can change your day, your year, and your life. Thanks Bernie and cheers to you!
A good mentor possesses the following qualities:
When people say, “Experience is the best teacher,” they generally mean one’s own experience. Maybe no lesson is learned so well as the one you learn yourself — the hard way — but I prefer to learn as much as possible from someone else’s experiences. It’s possible to build a successful business without one, but having a mentor can help you do it much faster and save you a lot of trouble along the way.
I am blessed to have a wonderful mentor. He’s a business coach and a serial entrepreneur whose advice is highly prized and sought after because of his down-to-earth, no B.S. approach to running a company. When I first started my business, he helped me avoid making countless rookie mistakes. As I’ve grown, he has helped me avoid mistakes that are common among more experienced entrepreneurs. He has helped me navigate through tough decisions. He has shown me how to emerge from difficult predicaments with grace and respect. I shudder to think of the amount of pain and suffering I would have walked right into if I hadn’t had access to him.
That’s what good mentors do. They help you evaluate your ideas and strategies, identify weak points, and show you how to shore them up. They help you get clear on your business goals, and they challenge you to stretch your thinking. They encourage you and cheer you on when you need to do things that are outside your comfort zone (which is all the time!).
HOW TO FIND A GOOD MENTOR
Identify potential candidates.
It may seem like a daunting task, but good mentor candidates are likely all around you. You may have them in your network. Check your connections on LinkedIn, and don’t forget your 2 nd and 3rd-degree connections. If you find someone you’d like to meet, ask a 1st-degree connection to make an introduction.
Associations, entrepreneurial organizations, business incubators, and CEO peer groups are also full of potential mentors. Any place where business owners gather is a great place to look.
Approach them the right way.
When you find someone you’d like to talk to, the way you approach them will set the tone for the kind of conversation you will have, or whether you’ll have one at all. Instead of saying you’re looking for a mentor, briefly outline a specific challenge you are facing in your business and ask for the person’s insight into it.
Don’t ask to buy them coffee. Everyone wants to do that, and they’ll probably say no. It’s never a good use of their time (or yours).
Don’t say, “Can I pick your brain?”. This is an old expression that has been over-used by tire-kickers and turns people off from the start. Read this article for ideas on how to ace this conversation.
Don’t ask, “What should I do?”. This can be a signal that you require a lot of hand-holding. No one wants to mentor someone who wants to be told what to do. They want to mentor people who want to learn, so demonstrate your desire to learn in the way you speak.
Listen to how they answer you.
This conversation is a sort of audition for them as much as it is for you. If someone doesn’t ask many questions and tells you exactly what to do, this is not the mentor you are looking for. Anyone with quick, pat answers may be more interested in being perceived as an expert than offering practical help to someone trying to get a leg up in the business world.
A good mentor should be a good listener and should ask as many questions as they answer. They should also not tell you what to think. Entrepreneurs think differently, and a mentor should teach you how to think by guiding you through a series of questions in such a way that as you answer them, the point they want you to learn reveals itself.
Rachael Hodo is the Founder of ProAdmin Solutions, LLC, a VA firm that specializes in general administration, content marketing, and association management services. Rachael and her team work by referral only. You can reach her on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/rachaelhodo.
How do I find myself a mentor?
Is a question often asked by anyone fully invested in their development.
Because a mentor offers experience, encouragement, growth and many other benefits, it’s no wonder they are so highly sought.
From observation, I notice a lot of people make the same mistake – they desire attaining a mentor for the sake of having one.
Make sure you don’t make this mistake. When you ask
What you should really be asking is
“How do I find myself a mentor, good for me?”
At various points in my life so far, I have been blessed with experiencing the tutelage of not just one mentor, but two.
Both were high quality, offering a diverse range of perspectives, helping me to progress.
Both came into my life in entirely different ways.
The “mercenary” mentor
Upon desiring this expertise, you may want to consider seeking a service which pairs mentors and mentees together to start the relationship.
This was how I met my first mentor, who was assigned to me as part of a work graduate placement scheme.
Her purpose was to support and guide me in this early stage of my career, putting in development plans and offering regular advice with arranged phone calls.
In this pairing, I felt quite lucky as she was a professional life coach, whose gentle questioning approach, influenced and challenged my mindset, resulting in me addressing some negative traits in my personality.
This type of relationship is very formal, and although you may get on with your it does feel like you are carrying out a business transaction, where when the required service has been provided (usually by achieving a desired end goal), the relationship ends.
This is exactly what happened in my situation, as upon completion of my graduate scheme, my mentor moved on to work on the next client – the impersonal approach of “it’s just business” is why I liken this type of mentor to a mercenary!
The “brotherhood” mentor
A second approach is something more natural – when I first met my current mentor, I never realised our relationship would develop in this way.
In many ways I never sought the support of mentorship, it’s started simply as a work colleague who would check how I was progressing.
After he left to work elsewhere, I maintained contact and a friendship grew from it. As we shared similar backgrounds and shared goals, it grew with an unwritten assumption that he was mentoring me.
The main disadvantages of this type of mentorship, is having a friend guide you isn’t always ideal if you want a total honest opinion. The lack of neutrality also makes it difficult for them to detach from a situation if you share the same biases.
And of course a mentor gained through friendship, with it’s informal approach can be complex when catching up to balance the professional with the personal, especially on certain days when you are desperate for advice, but don’t want to violate the boundaries of friendship.
Despite this, from the two approaches I prefer the organic approach of a “brotherhood” mentor, the advantage being it allows you to be fully relaxed to be totally open and honest in discussions.
What makes a good mentor?
Whether you find a mentor through a match making service, or build one through common ground, the main thing is that they are good for you. Therefore a good mentor should:
- make helpful suggestions
- boost confidence
- carry the role motivated to help others, rather than for personal gain
- humility – may not even refer to themself as a mentor, even when performing these duties
- experienced / relevant skills to teach to mentee
A mentor relationship shouldn’t start for the sake of it. Ensure that there is a connection and although I recommend having a mentor who is also a friend, don’t let business ruin a quality friendship.