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Tuesday Tips: Find the Right Mentors

2010 June 22
tags: Development, Self-Care, Tuesday Tips
by Andrew   

Find the right mentors. They’re essential to success in almost any endeavor, especially professional endeavors, unless you want to learn everything the hard way.

Finding the right ones can be tricky, difficult, or seemingly impossible. But, it isn’t…As a pastor friend of mine is fond of saying, “Find someone who has what you want.”

Invariably, this doesn’t mean material things when he says it. I don’t mean material things either.

I always give the same advice when asked by employees, friends, or my own mentorees about finding mentors:

Have more than one. It is a rare individual who can advise on all aspects of the things that concern you. Some people are skilled enough to advise on several, but I haven’t met any who can advise on all.

At a minimum, I recommend a spiritual mentor, a leadership mentor (if you manage people or are responsible for shaping opinions), a personal development mentor (executive coaches are great!), and a professional mentor for your career field. These major developmental areas deserve more than a passing attempt at improvement and focused effort requires someone to challenge and help motivate you when you don’t feel like working on them.

I would counsel against always choosing as a mentor someone with whom you find yourself regularly agreeing. The greatest personal advancements are often the result of being challenged far beyond comfort.

Find someone you respect, who is willing to spend time helping you, and who will actually make the time available regularly. How regularly is up to the two of you.

Establish a confidentiality agreement so it’s clear what is to be kept private by both of you and what may be shared when. These can be more important in a professional office environment, but they serve to strengthen the relationship in personal mentoring as well.

If you experience short-term problems in a mentoring relationship…maybe what once worked no longer seems effective but you want to salvage it…try a change of environment. If you always meet in the office, try a coffee shop or a lunch. If you travel together, try dinner during a trip.

Always remember, your well-being is important. Without it, all else will fade. If a mentoring relationship isn’t working, find another mentor. People sometimes don’t click, or the items that first made the relationship effective are no longer true. Exit gracefully.

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