“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” Zig Ziglar
Richard Branson followed this famous quote with one of his own in a recent blog post…“Find a mentor”. Branson clearly understands the impact a mentor can have on our success. So, why don’t more of us take advantage of the benefits of mentorship? Simply put, it can seem like an overwhelming task. Who do I choose? How should I ask them? How does this whole mentoring thing work? Won’t this take too much time? With this in mind, here are 4 simple steps to help you find a mentor and maximize the value of the relationship.
Why You Need a Mentor.
Define what specifically you want your mentor for.
Is it to develop special knowledge, skills or abilities? Are you looking for a champion that will advocate for your next promotion? Or, are you just looking for a general resource as a ‘go to’ or sounding board when you run into a challenge.
Being very clear about the why before thinking about the who will help you find the right person and help you both benefit from the relationship.
Make a Mentor List.
Draft a list of potential mentors based on the requirements you identified earlier.
Not sure where to start?
- Think about colleagues (past and present).
- See if your organization has a formal mentorship program in place.
- Look at your local chamber or professional association.
- Leverage your LinkedIn network.
Now that you are aware of potential sources:
- Challenge yourself to include at least one person from each group to make sure your list is comprehensive.
- Rank the list against the requirements you identified in step one.
- Create a short-list of potential mentors to connect with.
What Makes a Great Mentor?
List the qualities that you are looking for in a mentor.
While there are many qualities that you could look for, I would simplify it to one simple word; TRUST.
Look at your short-list of mentor candidates, and ask yourself these two questions:
- Do you trust that they will be invested in your success and genuinely want to see you succeed?
- Do you trust that they have the knowledge and experience that will help you to grow as a leader? Essentially, have they been where you want to go?
Obviously trust is something that will need to be developed, but if you can answer yes to each of these questions, you’ve likely found your mentor.
READ MORE: What Makes a Great Mentor – Profit Guide
Will You Be My…Mentor?
Connect with the mentor that you have identified in the above steps and ask them if they are interested.
Asking someone to be your mentor probably feels a lot like asking out your high school crush. But, it doesn’t have to be. Like dating, mentorship works best when you start slow and develop a relationship first. So, start the ‘relationship’ by identifying something that you can do for them.
Looking for an opportunity to help out on a project they are working on or facilitating a professional connection are just a few quick ideas for starting the relationship in a meaningful way. Delivering value is a great way to demonstrate to a potential mentor that they will benefit from the engagement.
Now you still have the tough part…asking. Again, like dating, start slow.
Express your interest in following a similar career path and ask your potential mentor if you can schedule some time to discuss how they developed throughout their career. It is a great ‘first date’ and an opportunity to validate your choosing them in the first place, gives them the opportunity to see if they want to work with you, and sets a foundation for the relationship.
A few weeks after the conversation – or a few conversations – you can reach out to them again for the formal Will You Be My … Mentor.
This is one of the few times that I recommend emails. Emails are less likely to put the potential mentor on the spot and make them feel pressured to say yes. You don’t want them if they are not all in. With this in mind:
- Make it easy for them to say no
“If this is not a good time for you, would you kindly refer me to a colleague who might be available…”
- Be clear on the time commitment required
“…I am hoping that we could meet once a month for an hour. I will plan a short agenda with specific topics to discuss for each meeting.”
- Make clear your intentions for the relationship.
“…I am looking to enhance my leadership skills and am confident that your experience and insight would be invaluable in this pursuit.”
It’s Not That Hard
Can you really exploit the advantages of mentorship in just four easy steps? Absolutely.
You could write hundreds of books on how to identify a mentor, how to get the most from the relationship, how to be a good mentee (always hated this word). However, to get value from mentorship, you actually have to start.
Breaking down the process into these four simple steps enables you to put meaningful thought and consideration into each step instead of getting bogged down in a complex process.
Understanding your needs, engaging a wide network of experience, selecting someone you trust, and actually asking someone to be your mentor (this is kind of an important one) will get you started. The rest is up to you.
About Glen Harrison:
Glen started his journey with Sigma Assessment Systems nearly two decades ago managing a large scale employee development project for Chrysler that involved over 30,000 management and staff. Over his career, Glen has worked with a third of the Fortune 500 and with every level of government in Canada and the United States. In the process, Glen has delivered workshops to over 10,000 people across 49 states (sorry Wyoming, he’ll get there eventually), 10 provinces, 1 territory, 107 cities, and 9 countries.