I like to think that having a mentor is like having a secret weapon. We know people who are well mentored get promoted or grow their business more quickly, are more motivated and achieve bigger goals. In my work, I see mentoring increasing people’s confidence, helps build resilience and people’s ability to manage challenges – the key skills needed to perform at your best.
Imagine having someone that generously shares their successes and failures. Talks about what they did, what worked and what didn’t. They can hold the mirror up. Ask you some tough questions. Make you think about your life, your career or business, your strengths and your goals.
Reflection, testing of ideas, different perspective and perhaps a reality check from someone experienced can be a game changer. But a mentoring relationship is an investment of time and energy. Your mentor needs to “feel” right, expectations should be aligned and objectives clear for it to succeed.
So how do you find your secret weapon and when you do, how do you make the most of it?
Here are my 7 key steps:
- Define why you want a mentor
- What is the purpose of the mentoring?
- What expectations do you have?
- Is there a particular objective you want to achieve or a short term challenge to address? Or broadly, needing an experienced sounding board to work out your next steps?
- What does a successful outcome look like for you?
- Define the qualities you want in a mentor
- Valuable mentors are people who not share stories, wisdom and insights but those that are truly invested in developing others. They are generous, good listeners, have experience, are committed, honest, discreet and supportive
- Think about the type of people who energise you – what qualities do they have?
- What experience is important? What skills are you looking for?
- What personality style would suit you? Is difference or similarity more meaningful?
- Identify a potential mentor
- Access your networks via industry and professional/business associations
- Consider past leaders, colleagues, clients, family and friends as sources to leverage
- Research LinkedIn, publications, organisational charts and internal directories
- Participate in professional mentoring and coaching programs through providers such as McCarthy Mentoring who can strategically match you to a mentor, provide structure and support
- Be bold ask them to meet
- Reach out to ask them for a short meeting or coffee to gain advice or guidance on a particular challenge or career opportunity. Explain why you have approached them and make the request clear and simple to increase the chance of meeting
- If they say yes, take the opportunity to meet, share your background and your objectives for the discussion. Ask them about theirs. Seek their thoughts on the specific topic identified
- After the meeting take time to reflect. Do you feel like you can trust them, be open and vulnerable with them? How is the fit, chemistry and rapport? Was their mutual respect?
- If everything feels like it’s the right match and there was common interest then take be bold ask them if they would be open to being your mentor! Be considerate and ask them what time they can commit and how they prefer to work with you. Both parties need to be ready to invest and commit to an ongoing professional development relationship with clear goals and expectations set at the start
- If they say no, there may be many reasons but it is best to be clear now. Don’t give up – go back to step 3
- Set your goals and make them happen
- We strongly recommend structure, reflection and preparation for each mentoring session
- Set clear goals and expectations for the mentoring. Agree on the length and formality of the sessions
- Prepare an agenda that could include setting expectations around structure and frequency, key challenges, boundaries and SMART goal-setting
- At McCarthy Mentoring we have found that there are 10 key themes that executives and business owners commonly discuss with mentors. These include:
- Goal setting
- Strengths and abilities
- Career or business planning
- Profile and network
- Effective leadership
- Influence and negotiation
- Effectively integrating work and life
- Risk and resilience
- Reflection and future plans
- Invest in and manage the relationship
- The easiest way to lose a mentor is not to drive this journey. It is your opportunity so book in regular sessions at times convenient to you both and schedule 2-3 meetings in advance.
- Openness and trust is vital for a good mentoring relationship
- Reflect on and discuss your progress this includes asking for, and being open to, feedback
- Action recommendations or readings suggested by your mentor
- Revisit expectations and goals throughout.
- Conclude the relationship and thank them
- Like all professional relationships, it is useful to have a formal conclusion to complete the mentoring relationship
- Reflect and discuss what’s been valuable about the experience
- Consider your future goals – what plans do you have and how are you going to continue with your professional development?
- Discuss if you will remain in touch
- The small gesture of thanking them for their time is important
McCarthy Mentoring’s Emerging Leaders Mentoring Program strengthens the leadership capability of talented middle managers and technical experts moving into broader roles.