Do you need a mentor? The answer to this question should always be YES.
The difficult question is “what do I need mentoring in?”
Through our entire life, we are always finding new knowledge and ways of doing things. For our existing knowledge and methods, we are always adding and changing these. These changes are what drive our personal, and professional, growth.
We can not know everything. We can not immediately pick up and apply new knowledge. This is where a mentor comes in.
Who Can Be A Mentor
Your mentor should be someone who has knowledge and experience in the area you are trying to grow in. They do not need to be a world expert. They do need to have enough experience to be able to guide you in your growth.
A mentor should be someone you can look to for advice. They should be open and approachable. There is no point in having a mentor who you can not ask questions to.
They should also be able to commit to a mentoring arrangement. If your mentor is always busy doing other things then you will struggle to get their time to work with you.
One of the most important qualities for a mentor is that they need to be discrete. You need to know that they will not discuss anything you share with them. Mentoring is a trust-based process. You need to be able to share your inner thoughts and worries. You do not want to be always thinking “will they tell everyone else about this.”
A mentor should also want to be one. How many organisations are there that make their senior managers mentor other people? How many of those senior managers want to be a mentor? Not many. If someone does not want to be a mentor you are unlikely to have a trusting, sharing and open relationship. It is likely that after a few weeks the mentor will lose interest, and the whole arrangement will fail.
What To Look For In A Mentor
When choosing a mentor, here are some of the things to look for.
Knowledge, but with experience
As discussed above, your mentor should have knowledge of the area you wish mentoring in.
But they need more than knowledge.
They need experience. They need to be able to relate the information to you using examples from the “real world”.
There are a lot of people that will tell you how much they know. When you dig a bit deeper you can find out if what they know comes from a book. You can also see if they have a real understanding of their expertise area.
As the saying goes “they can talk the talk but can they walk the walk?”
When looking for a potential mentor it is worth spending a bit of time to check them out. Use this to make sure that they are the expert they claim to be.
Interested in You
They should have an active interest in you. You should not be “just” another client to them.
When you speak to a potential mentor spend some time getting to know each other. This allows you both to decide if you can work together. Do you want to work with someone who does not know you? This “getting to know you” stage is where trust starts to develop.
When starting the mentoring arrangement you can look for things including:
- Do you have similar core values?
- Do you feel comfortable talking with each other?
- Is the mentor open and friendly?
- Does the mentor come across as honest?
- Is the mentor interested in you, not only the idea you approached them with?
It is the foundation of trust that drives the success of the relationship. When doing your research into the mentor, spend a little bit of time checking out their way of working.
Committed to Success
Your mentor needs to commit to your success. They should be willing to push you to enable your growth and to make sure you get the most out of the agreement.
A good mentor does not tell you what to do. Instead, they should make you think about each step and guide you towards the next action.
A mentor should not accept everything you tell them. They need to challenge your thinking to further explore each area of knowledge. They need to push you so that you challenge yourself in everything you do. You should come out of each session feeling you have been on an emotional rollercoaster.
They should also be supportive and patient with you. Where it becomes obvious that you are struggling the mentor should slow down. They should give you time to think about what has been discussed. They should help you to take in the new knowledge, and come up with a way you can apply that.
Your mentor should also be curious. They should welcome new thinking and new ways of doing things. They should feel comfortable to challenge their own way of thinking. Your way of doing something may be obvious to you. Your mentor may say see it as a simpler way of doing one of their activities. This is good for both of you. For the mentor it allows them to gain knowledge. For you, it allows you to see what you are doing through a new set of eyes, which may highlight what you can improve.
Can I Be A Mentor
The answer to this is yes. You can be a mentor. You need to make sure you are able to meet the items we have discussed.
A lot of successful mentoring arrangements are two-way relationships. Both mentor and mentee are able to learn and grow from the experience.
Everyone has something they are an expert in. Everyone has the capability to share that with others.
The only thing that could limit this is time. Do you have the time to take on a mentoring role? If you can not commit the time then it is best that you do not become a mentor yet.
How Many Mentors Can I Have?
This is an interesting question. The answer is “as many as you need”.
Each mentor should have their own area of expertise. If you feel you need more than one mentor in an area then it means you do not trust your mentor. In this case, you should end your arrangement and find a mentor who you can trust.
There will be an occasional overlap in the expertise areas. This presents a unique opportunity. Where the advice you receive from the mentors agree, then you are good to go and work with it. Where you get differing advice you have the chance to research further. This allows you to decide which way you should go.
Mentoring is a key concept that drives your skills and the way you do things. Building a trusted mentoring arrangement lets you access the knowledge of experts. This drives your own growth.
Mentoring requires dedication. It requires time. The results show that this commitment is worth it. Mentoring drives you to become better than you are today.
For details on how to create a successful mentoring agreement, please see this post.
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Also published on Medium.