Most Important Step in Professional Development – the RIGHT Mentor
What is a mentor and does everyone need one? The actual definition is simple (1) a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. 2) an influential senior sponsor or supporter.), however knowing who the right mentor is for YOU as well as knowing how to evaluate someone are two key areas I have excelled in and will not only share how I found the “right” people, but also – what I gave up (and would still give up) to work with an excellent mentor moving forward.
Who is the right Mentor for you?
1. Decide what type of professional you want to be.
Many people misinterpret this declarative. This does not mean “title”; this does not mean, “I want to be a CEO” for example. This is a far more global concept. Look around you…what management styles do you like? Do you want to manage people? processes? Perhaps you don’t want to manage anything or anyone but yourself. When you find several people whose style draws you in, start getting to know them better.
2. BE PROACTIVE – and be proactive with a plan
Likelihood is, if you want to learn from someone, others will too. As Sun Tzu says, “every battle is won before it is fought”. Develop a professional growth plan for yourself and include these individuals in the plan. You can include them as advisors on projects, ask for opinions, work on a team or project together. The GOAL is for you to establish a valid reason to work more closely with these individuals so a) you get to know them better b) they get to know you better. Always show the initiative to learn and become better.
3. Starting the “relationship”
As with any ‘relationship’, the mentor / protege relationship typically starts with a “honeymoon period”. You will work with the individual you want to mentor you and in doing so, you will already have stepped your game up a level because you want to impress this individual. As with any relationship, you will look for things you have in common – in the business arena, this will usually be a discussion around great books you’ve read, blogs you follow, people you look up to, etc. By asking your “possible mentor” what they read or follow, you can read or follow the same things. This does 2 things: 1) It allows you to see if you really do follow (or want to learn to be better at or adhere to) the ideologies and 2) It will give you talking points / discussions to have with this individual. You will see if you “click”.
4. Keeping it Real / Go with your Gut
As you go through the process above (and if you want to be successful, you will do this with most of the successful people you meet), you will find that there is usually one or two people you “connect” with. While these individuals may not be who you “wanted” to be like at first, there is a reason you connect with them. Everything is purposeful. Do not try to be something you are not and GO with the connection; go with your gut instinct, it’s usually right.
What is a “Mentor” worth?
An impossible question to answer, however always look at the short, medium, and long term – and make your decision. The long term will outweigh the short and medium. Only YOU can define what having a great mentor is worth to you, however let’s look at some individuals who have had (and reference) their mentors in the past:
Business: Warren Buffet and Ben Graham
Philosophy: Socrates was the mentor of Plato, and Plato was the mentor of Aristotle. Aristotle was even the mentor of Alexander the Great.
This mentor hall of fame shows a list of historical, political, and spiritual individuals like Obama, Julias Caesar, and John McCain who were ALL mentored.
If you get the right mentor
Take a pay cut. Leave your company. Do whatever is needed to work with or engage with that person. They will change your life.