“If I hadn’t had mentors, I wouldn’t be here today. I’m a product of great mentoring, great coaching… Coaches or mentors are very important.” PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi says as she credits mentoring for helping her break glass ceilings in business.
The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, is the first to shine the spotlight on his early law career mentor, Michelle Robinson (aka Michelle Obama). It is their style to shine the light on others doing great work, he credits his wife as being the success and support behind his great achievements.
Cricket sporting legend Sachin Tendulkar mentored Virender Sehwag to be the best version of himself, to find his own batting style rather than try to mimic or copy Tendulkar. Sehwag is widely regarded as one of the most destructive (in a sporting positive way), batsmen of all time.
Mentoring is a key activity that can, amongst other leadership and professional development, boost your visibility.
According to Mentorloop, an online mentoring access service, employees who receive mentoring are promoted five times more often than those who don’t. Furthermore, 71% of Fortune 500 companies run mentoring programs. Fundera, a small business financial services firm, notes that 80% of CEOs say they received some form of mentorship.
Mentors challenge, champion and educate. A great mentor will:
- help you read, deal with, and even influence the culture and internal politics of the organisation.
- teach you skills, especially if you are looking to shift from a technical individual contributor role to a people management role.
- Be a strong, confident role model who can help you amplify your confidence and courage to step up.
- expose you to new ideas and perspectives.
- introduce you to new professional contacts, other senior decision makers, and key industry players.
Find a Mentor
Start with knowing what you want from a mentoring relationship. What do you want your mentor to help you do? For example,
- Increase self-awareness and confidence.
- Increase leadership capability and preparedness for more senior opportunities.
- Advocate for you or sponsor you for projects.
- What’s your goal?
Identify potential candidate mentors, you may not be able to engage your number one choice so consider a few people who you admire. Your mentor or mentors may or may not be working in the same organisation, look for the skills, strengths, experiences and achievements that you resonate with and aspire to achieve. Look within your organisation, industry and even beyond. A totally external view can provide some great challenges to perspectives.
When considering mentors, aim for values alignment otherwise the mentoring relationship will be frustrating and may stumble due to fundamental differences.
Reach out and connect with your potential mentors, show genuine interest in who they are and what they are working on. Aim to build a relationship, to network with them. While networking you may be asking questions and it may feel like the mentoring has begun however it’s appropriate and respectful to formalise the relationship.
Formalising the mentor-mentoree relationship will ensure you both use your valuable time effectively, are working on goals and have accountability to each other. This gives you both the environment to have clear expectations of each other and the mentoring process.
Mentoring is not a one-way relationship, while there are benefits for mentors it’s critical to prepare and come to the mentoring arrangement willing to actively participate. Demonstrating your gratitude for mentoring time and advice will improve your own skills to speak up and communicate effectively. It will help you be a mentor to someone else one day.
Length of Mentoring Relationship
Many mentoring relationships are for a defined amount of time while others are ongoing. Audrey Hepburn mentored Elizabeth Taylor throughout her career, and remained friends up until Hepburn passed away. It’s common for mentors and mentorees to become firm friends.
In formalising the relationship, you can set an end date or at least a review date. This can help with accountability on actions.
Mentoring has helped me achieve successes in my business I never thought I ever would. Mentoring has helped me achieve successes faster than I would have if I had plodded and muddled along without the support and expertise of someone who has gone before me.
Who would be your dream mentor?