I feel as if I should write a novel “A Tale of Two Mentors.”
It would be about two very successful mentorships. Both would involve a young, aspiring businessperson and an older, more experienced leader. Both would feature honest introspection on the part of the mentee, and wise, thoughtful counsel on the part of the mentor. Both would continue with hard work and well-defined touchpoints. Both would end with a happy conclusion: the mentees having reached their professional growth goals and the mentors having learned something by reflecting on earlier stages of their careers.
The difference? One “tale” would take place over the course of three months, and the other over thirty years.
How can that be when both seem so similar?
“Great mentors don’t solve problems, they ask questions.” – Skip Prichard
Define Your Goals
It’s because while effective mentor relationships share a lot of the same features, they also need to be specific to your goals in order to be successful. Do you need to get good at one skill or need entrée into a particular group? A short-term mentorship may be great. Do you need more of a relationship-based mentor? Someone to help guide you through the pitfalls of leadership as you grow a career? That may take many, many years.
The key to success—as with most important ventures—is to define your goals before going in.
“Before looking for a mentor, first ask, ‘What do I need help with.’” – Drew Bordas
But for some reason, I’ve found that this seems to be harder with mentorships than other leadership areas. I’m often approached by younger or less-experienced managers “looking for a mentor.” I think what they really mean is “looking for a shortcut.”
“We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.” – Whoopi Goldberg
My panel in this episode of “Aim Higher” hits this point again and again—unless you get specific, you won’t have a good mentorship experience. We get into some really good details about what makes for a good mentor/mentee relationship. Among other things, we discuss:
- The difference between mentoring and coaching
- A recognition of differences in communications styles
- The need for mentors to slow down and ask questions
- The benefits mentoring can bring to the entire organization
- When the mentorship is over—how to move on
When done well, mentorships can be a real plus for both people involved, and for your whole company. But you have to take the time to get set up for success. Don’t assume that a few lunches or a “profound chat” or two will do the trick. Identify the need, find the right person, set up a schedule, measure success.
Then we’ll have a “Tale of Three Mentors” to talk about when I interview you on the podcast someday.
“Sometimes mentoring is about relationships, sometimes about consultation. There are many different kinds of mentorships.” – Tammi Spayde
What does it really mean to be a mentor? Or be mentored? In this episode of “Aim Higher,” Skip’s panel gets into some great details and specific recommendations that are often overlooked. If you want to find a great mentor, be a better mentor, or develop a successful mentoring program for your workplace, you owe it to yourself to listen in.
To listen to this week’s Aim Higher podcast, click here.
Photo Credit: Joshua Ness