“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulder of giants.” These words by Isaac Newton have resonated with me all week because they are true. Every now and then, I take time to reflect on the progress of my life and work journeys. I have taken on many paths in order to get to one destination, and along the way, I have met many people, older and younger, who have contributed in nouveau ways to the person I am today. I have seen further because of the shoulders of mentors on which I have stood and currently stand one.
Before I found my mentors, I struggled quite a bit. Not because there were not brilliant and upright people in the world, but because I was a confused teenage girl who could not decide on who was the right fit to mentor me. Although mentorship does not guarantee you will succeed in life, it is one of those essentials to have in order to have a guided journey in life.
“By definition, a mentor is a more experienced and knowledgeable person, who teaches and nurtures the development of a less experienced and knowledgeable person. In an organizational setting, a mentor influences the personal and professional growth of a mentee.” Lauren Bidwell further explains that, “Most traditional mentorships involve having senior employees mentor junior employees, but mentors do not necessarily have to be more senior than the people they mentor. What matters is that mentors have experience that others can learn from. For example, some companies have “reverse mentoring” programs where younger employees share their experience using social technology with senior colleagues who may not have used these tools before.”
We have all been mentored in different ways; in casual ways and under more obvious mentorship relationships. When I was in the banking industry, I had an older colleague who would give me random advice and look out for me. I had never officially asked this person to be my mentor but unknowingly he gradually became one. Now that I am in the space of coaching, I have met many people who have plainly asked that I mentor them. In the end, no matter how you seek out a mentor, the goal is to be connected with an experienced person who can teach you invaluable life lessons while occasionally sharing business and life opportunities with you.
Can you have more than one mentor? Yes! Yes, you can. However, all of you must be in alignment, keeping in mind the objective to nurture you into your fullest potential. You will be in trouble if you have multiple mentors who are pushing you in different directions. You can trust whatever leadership counsel you are being given only it has resonated with you, mind, body and soul. Anything that diverts you from your course should be questioned and addressed.
The fact that people feel the need to have more than one mentor goes to show how important this relationship is. In further validation, the Federation of Small Businesses published that, 70% of mentored entrepreneurs have businesses surviving for 5 years or more, which is double the rate compared with non-mentored entrepreneurs. Other sources also say that mentors are valuable and are key in helping individuals and businesses succeed. Diane Domeyer, Executive Director of staffing firm, The Creative Group believes mentors are important because “They can provide guidance on career management you may not be able to get from other sources and an insider’s perspective on the business, as well as make introductions to key industry contacts.”
Experience may be the best teacher but there are some lessons that need not be learnt through personal experience. They can save you from making grave, unforgiveable mistakes that will save you a lot of pain, money and troubles. Sometimes, you may be too occupied in the present that you lose sight of the bigger picture ahead. With a mentor, you will be regularly reminded of the overall goal in your life. Many successful people attribute at least part of their success to having a mentor. The right mentor can provide advice and connections that help their mentee reach heights that would be impossible alone.
Now that we understand what mentorship is and what its benefits are, how do we prepare ourselves to be mentored? How do we identify the right mentor(s) for us? You must remember that a mentor will only serve as a guide. So, the most important way to prepare yourself to be properly mentored, is to find clarity on what you want in your life, love, work and business. You do not necessarily have to grasp the entirety of the dream but you should have an idea of what you want. The right mentor will understand what the goal is and help you identify the actionable steps and things that will get you there.
A mentee-mentor relationship does not need to be uptight and formal always. The essence of this partnership is to learn as much as possible and to impact the world in unexpected ways. A career expert, Vicku Salemi says, “It doesn’t have to be completely intensive, and that’s what both the mentor and mentee should know – it’s an ongoing dialogue conversation, and it’s a relationship that’s not going to completely overhaul your life.” Even though you will have a professional relationship with your mentor, you should be comfortable with them. An easy-going tone will make it easy for you to be plain, honest and open with your mentor. To benefit from their great advice, they will need to understand with full clarity whatever your situation entails.
To be successfully mentored here is what you can do:
- OPEN EXPRESSION
When you find a mentor you believe is right for you, do not immediately assume they know what you want or how to help you. You will be telling your mentor things in confidence, so your ability to trust them will help you ascertain whether they are right for you. Even so, this trust should go both ways, as the relationship will be the most successful when they trust you as well. Open and expressive communication will get both of you on the same page. Say in clear direct words what you hope to achieve with the mentee-mentorship relationship. This way your mentor you can truly realize the goals for the partnerships. A mentee-mentor relationship is not only about taking. By helping your mentor in diverse ways, you can pick up both soft and technical skills you may not have realized to be important.
- LISTEN AND EVALUATE
They are there to provide guidance and perspective and make you think differently – not make unilateral decisions for you. When your mentor gives you counsel, listen carefully with an open mind, evaluate it, challenge it, if need be, then come to your own decision. You do not always need to take the advice of your mentor but you should listen and align it with your beliefs before coming to a decision. “The role of the mentor is to make you reflect, not to give you advice or answers. Helping you ask the right questions – that’s real mentorship,” explains Marten Mickos, CEO of HackerOne.
- ALIGNING DIVERSITY
As I mentioned earlier, you can have other sources of counsel even when you have a mentor. What is essential is making sure that you take into consideration what your goals are before taking up anyone’s advice. It is okay to seek out diverse perspectives. There is not a single road to success in any field of life, and this is the reason appreciating other points of view is okay.
- ACTIVELY WORK AT BEING A GOOD MENTEE.
“The biggest difference between people having a successful mentor relationship boils down to initiative,” says Tyler Perry, partner at Bateman Group. “Many thoughtful pieces have been written about how to be a good mentor, but there is less attention on how to be a good mentee. When I look at those that I have mentored and those that are getting a lot out of the program have some clear similarities:
They thoughtfully select the right person.
They establish the framework of the relationship.
They work at the relationship.
They are prepared with specific questions, areas for feedback, and requests for support.”
Finding a mentor suitable for you and working towards being a good mentee is not simple, but it is not impossible. A great mentor does not need to be the most important person in your industry of interest. They mentor needs to understand you and your drive as a person. They need to be experienced enough to help you work your way through life. In return, you must pay attention, be ready for change, challenge yourself to improve, ask the tough questions and appreciate feedback, both negative and positive. I am confident that with these keys, you can identify someone in your space who is qualified to take you under their wings and successfully mentor you.
The high performance journey is usually a process that requires commitment to understanding failures, running a post mortem on the failures and fighting to bounce back. “When you have failures in your life, your motivation to bounce back should be for the sake of others rather than yourself.” – Sir Samuel Esson Jonah (OGS)