Having the support of a mentor or guide, someone we respect for their opinions and abilities from whom we can learn, and who will help us evaluate and mediate our own actions, having someone wise in your life is an essential part of developing all your strengths and talents as well as wisdom and is a lifelong necessity. When you say things out loud to someone else, when you explain your thinking to someone else who you trust, you hear yourself better. In a professional capacity this is how you develop your skills and expertise under the guidance of an expert and ‘life or business’ is no different.
The following tips will help you on your way:
Do you need a mentor, consultant, counsellor or coach - A mentor can cover all these roles, but the others can’t. Counsellors work on emotional and psychological issues, coaches on behavioral and skills issues, and consultants on operational or strategic issues. An experienced mentor will be able to straddle all areas, but also know when to bring in an expert.
Decide on the issues - Identify clearly the issue that you want to be mentored on. Very often it’s not what people know, or even what they know they don’t know that trips them up, it’s what they don’t know they didn’t know. So very often you think “this is what I want some help with” but after proper analysis you discover the real issue lies elsewhere. A mentors objectivity is critical.
Be truthful - Be prepared for 100 per cent honesty and vulnerability. Great leaders are self aware, honest and authentic. How can someone really help you if you are not open? If you are closed, unwilling to change, to look inside, there is probably no chance of a successful mentoring relationship.
Gain mutual trust - Without trusting your mentor and your mentor trusting you, no progress will be made. Do they have any conflicts of interest, hidden agendas, axes to grind, vested interests in the mentoring topic? If they do, don’t continue.
Shared values - This quality is crucial, but it is often overlooked. Before you get too far in a mentoring relationship, make sure you share the same core values. Otherwise, the advice you receive on how to get ahead could also lead you astray.
Good teacher - Remember the old adage ‘those who can’t do teach’ in the world of mentorship you’d ideally find someone who can do both. Because someone who can “do” but can’t “teach” isn’t very useful. This means they have to be aware of what skills and talents they rely on most, and can translate that into your growth potential.
Honest feedback - Remember, you’re not looking for a cheerleader, as great as it is to have one, leave that to your Mum. If your mentor isn’t providing constructive criticism naturally, ask for it. Make sure your mentor is being specific enough and that the advice is actionable.
Helps your grow - Your mentor should push you out of your comfort zone to expand your skills and confidence. That can happen through special assignments or challenges or by demonstrating the behavior they want you to mimic.
Vision - Not all mentors need to have vision, but at least on of your mentors should. This person should have a big picture view of the career field you’re working in and have ideas on how you can make progress while staying true to your values.
If you ask someone to be your mentor and that person refuses, don’t be hurt or offended. This is not personal. Potential good mentors are very busy people. Thank them for their consideration and ask for a referral.
If you study the trajectories of successful people, you’ll see that most of them had considerable help along the way. A mentor can be a step up to any career. So don’t deprive yourself, go out there and find one.