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Mentoring is a big topic these days, and there is a lot of emphasis on it in corporations, which is a very good thing. Creating ways for individuals to connect with a mentor demonstrates a strong commitment to people and their development. It pairs an individual with a person who has traveled the road already and can provide wisdom, counsel, advice, encouragement, and even accountability in a way a direct manager typically cannot. However, these mentoring programs require investment, and the business world is always asking the return on investment question. This, in turn, steers the organization toward a mentoring program focused on high performers and “ready now” candidates. The rationale is to invest our mentoring budget on developing people who have the best potential to make the most impact quickly.
This approach to mentoring isn’t a bad thing, it’s a reality of business, and in some sense a smart decision. After all, the business has a responsibility to be profitable and that means managing costs in such a way to maximize returns. But what do you do if you don’t fit the profile of the ideal mentoring candidate in your organization? Are you out of luck? Do you just have to keep working hard until you’ve “earned” the honor of getting a mentor? The answer is most definitely “no!” You don’t have to wait, but you will have to do some work yourself. You will need to find your own mentor.
Now let me pause and say that I think we all need mentors. Even business owners and CEOs need mentors. We just are not designed to function as autonomous, self-sufficient beings. We are designed to be molded, shaped, and even transformed by our interactions with others. That’s why your mom warned you so often about who you spent your time with. The people you interact with shape yo
u. So choosing who you interact with and allow to influence you is a crucial life decision. Finding a mentor, therefore, is a wise and important decision for all of us. So, how do you do that?
[ctt tweet=”Choosing who you interact with and allow to influence you is a crucial life decision.” coverup=”2415z”]
Well, let’s first acknowledge that you don’t just walk up to someone and say, “Hey, will you be my mentor?” That just feels weird and needy. You have to have a plan, and you have to know what you are really looking for in the relationship. And there’s an important word, “Relationship.” Because you are essentially seeking a relationship with this person, you need to understand that there should be something in it for them. What will you bring to the relationship? How will they benefit by working with you in this way? Here are some things to consider as you make a plan to seek out a mentor and engage them.
- Make a list of 3 to 5 reasons you want a mentor. Are you looking for career advice, help with your personal brand, help to negotiate a difficult relationship with a co-worker or boss? List those objectives out.
- Think the kind of commitment you are seeking. Are you looking for formal meetings on a recurring schedule or an informal “pick-up the phone and call me if you want to talk” relationship? Are you looking for a long-term commitment or just a short term relationship to help you work on a particular project or problem?
- Based on what you’ve listed out so far, make a list of 3 people that you think would make a great mentor for you.
- For each person what is your current relationship with them?
- A leader you know and admire
- Someone you consider a friend who you also believe you could learn from
- For each person list 2 or 3 things that you can bring to the relationship. This one may seem strange, but you have gifts and talents that they don’t have. You have resources, time, and insights that they don’t have. What can you teach them, how can you serve them? The point is, you want to be able to demonstrate your seriousness about this relationship, and you can do that by articulating your intention and willingness to bring something to the table besides an open hand.
[ctt tweet=”Articulate your seriousness about the mentoring relationship by articulating your intentions and willingness to bring something to the table!” coverup=”Iz091″]
Once you’ve made your lists and answered these questions you should be able to start formulating a plan to sit down with one or more of the people on your list and explain to them your desire for a mentoring relationship and the specifics of what you think that looks like. This will make it easier for them to make a good decision about how to proceed, and it will help you both avoid the frustration of unresolved and undeclared expectations in the future.
I’m curious to know about your mentoring relationships. How did they form, what impact did they have on your life? Do you have more than one mentor? Are you a mentor and if so, what is that relationship like? Leave a comment so we can continue the conversation!
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net