Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, so there isn’t one hard and fast way on how to find the mentor you need. But there are a few things you might consider in preparing yourself for a mentor.
Know where you’re going.
Have you fleshed out a picture of your preferred future? Have you defined what success for you looks like?
If so, you won’t need to worry about selling a leader on why they should mentor you. You’ve got a natural elevator pitch.
Remember, many leaders are mentoring precisely because pouring into others is what success for them looks like. That means they already have ideal mentees in mind.
Most mentors are successful and busy. Having a clear definition of success communicates you’re worth investing in. It also helps the mentor understand how he can help you.
Go where they are, then define the terms.
Walking up to someone and asking them point-blank to mentor you can be unnerving rather than flattering. It’s a weighty request. This is mentoring, not marriage.
A better way might be to get coffee (you buy), or allow time to see this person on more than one occasion. I’ve traveled hours to an event just because a potential mentor was there. If I got to meet the person, I’d follow up via email or social media. Then repeat. Rather than jump the mentoring gun, I let the relationship develop organically.
If you’re ready to make the ask, suggest the terms. It’s a waste to meet, make the ask, then get back to them later with conditions. Have terms spelled out in case.
Reasonable expectations might be one phone call per month, or one in-person meeting every quarter, or coffee whenever you happen to meet at a certain event. If you feel this is too corporate, remember:
- you need them more than they need you
- you’re probably not paying for their time
- 30 minutes with the right mentor can totally change your life
Take what you can get.
Have a list of powerful questions.
You may not feel you have much to offer a mentor. But asking a powerful question can do a lot. It draws out memories and unlocks storehouses of wisdom and knowledge they might never have known they had.
Some time ago, I met with a leader. I was a bit intimidated. This guy was on top of his profession, had a beautiful office, and I felt there was nothing I could do to add value to him. Then I asked him one simple question:
“If you could change one thing in your leadership from when you were my age, what would it be?”
The man paused, smiled, and said “Wow, no one has ever asked me that. That’s so good! Thank you for asking me that question!” He answered and said he would use what he said later in his seminars.
Because great mentors are lifelong learners, asking questions can bring them to a new level of self-awareness. In the least, it shows honor for who they are and what they’ve accomplished.
Question: How are you preparing yourself to find the mentor you need?
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