“A mentor empowers a person to see a possible future, and believe it can be obtained” – Shawn Hitchcock.
Mentoring is powerful. Some of the most successful people in the world, from Mark Zuckerberg to Sir Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey, say their mentors had a hand in their success stories.
Over the past 12 years I’ve personally mentored more than 2000 people across Australia, including people in our cities, regions and the Outback. Many of these people are business leaders and influencers, or people looking to step up in their career.
As someone who’s seen firsthand the transformative power of mentoring, here are five tips for getting the most out of your mentoring journey.
Acknowledge the benefits
The first step is to recognise that you’re never too old, too young, or too experienced to have a mentor. I recently wrote about how ego can impact your business, but it can also impact your personal career trajectory. A 2017 Deloitte report found that people who are mentored experience greater job satisfaction, progress further in their careers, and are better paid. Writing about his mentor, Sir Freddie Laker, Sir Richard Branson addressed the benefits of mentoring: “Understandably there’s a lot of ego, nervous energy and parental pride involved … Going it alone is an admirable, but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world.”
Look beyond your industry & network
When seeking a mentor, don’t assume that you need a clone of yourself, or even someone from within your industry. A mentor outside your industry will help you to expand your network, and expose you to new ideas. People who don’t work alongside you each day are also more likely to be honest and ask questions that will challenge you to truly self-reflect. Founder and CEO of BIG Labs, Jyoti Bansal, says entrepreneurs “..should always select a mentor that fills the gaps in his/ her experience and skill set” so they can supplement the strengths that you bring to the table.
Find the right fit
Someone might look good on paper, but this doesn’t mean they’ll be a good fit for you as a mentor. Just like matchmaking, the mentor/mentee relationship doesn’t always yield a great fit. Even mentoring software app Mentorloop admits matching mentors and mentees isn’t an exact science: “Humans are infinitely complicated creatures… Using a spreadsheet simply doesn’t give you the scope or flexibility required to make matches across experience, skills, personality, preferences, and relationship goals.” Sometimes it’s only once you’ve formalised your arrangement that you’ll work out whether it’s a good fit. So how do you know whether it’s right?
A great mentor is like a colonic irrigation. They’ll help you find new ways to respond to your current frustrations, and move forward. The right mentor will respectfully question how you think and act, while providing guidance on how to find solutions to roadblocks and self-limiting behaviour. They’ll keep you accountable, but also provide a safe, supportive environment to have an open and engaged conversation.
Ensure it’s outcome driven
There’s more to this relationship than sitting with someone who dishes out advice or acts as your sounding board, although this advice is important. Ensure you’re both assessing and reviewing your progress. Set a co-created agenda and adhere to co-created milestones to track your relationship and keep you both focused during sessions.
Illumio CEO Andrew Rubin says when it comes to mentors “you get out.. what you put in”. The best models are based on measurable action. Remember that this is an equally accountable relationship, where you both need to do some of the heavy lifting and work in between sessions. On my part, for my mentees this has meant extra follow up and idea sharing between sessions, as well as introductions to industry networks that lead to new, undiscovered opportunities.
Pay for the pleasure
Remember that mentoring is an investment in yourself and your career. While you may be lucky enough to find a mentor who will help you for free, paying for the service ensures you’re working with someone who has the time and energy to invest in you. They’ll also be more inclined to establish an outcome-focused program, which will yield much more value for your efforts. Remember that your time is valuable, so invest it wisely when selecting the right mentor for you.
Are you looking for a professional mentor? Get in touch with Ali to find out more about Kiikstart’s tailored, one-on-one mentoring offering. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.kiikstart.com to find out more.