The most successful people have mentors guiding their progress. A few months ago, Harvard Business Review surveyed 45 CEOs who have formal mentoring arrangements and found out that “71% said they were certain that company performance had improved as a result. Strong majorities reported that they were making better decisions (69%) and more capably fulfilling stakeholder expectations (76%)”
The latest influx of B-school graduates are distinguishable by their curiosity and potential. They are enthusiastic, good at networking, probably have honed their interpersonal skills; are eager and impatient, willing to get their hands dirty and more often than not, come up with new ideas and suggestions for improvement.
Yet, so often, there is a gap between the theory they have learnt (albeit with some practical experience aka internship) and the tasks they actually need to perform. Business exigencies, corporate protocols, industry and product knowledge could add to these gaps. A good mentor will not only help them to bridge the gap but also help them in discovering their strengths and talents and eventually how to use them to achieve their goals.
The positive influence a mentor can have on your success cannot be disregarded or even underestimated.
Here is how one can gain from having a good mentor –
A mentor has walked the path. A mentor should be someone who has already accomplished what you have now set as your goals. If your dream is to become a Wall Street tycoon, professional baseball coach, a successful artist, or a CXO, it only makes sense to find someone who has accomplished that same goal. S/he knows what s/he is talking about. They know the reality of the situation. Everyone else is speculating.
A mentor is a qualified solicited advisor. Linda Rottenberg, CEO of Endeavor, shares the results of a survey among Endeavor entrepreneurs, in her book “Crazy is a Complement”. She goes on to state that “the most valuable contribution to their success – outside of their team – came not from those who provided financing, but from those who gave good advice.” Sometimes, one mentor may not be enough. You may need to have multiple mentors at different stages of your growth to overcome the challenges you face. You decide whom to ask – by that it is advice that is solicited as distinguished from unsolicited advice from a milieu that loves to speculate on other people’s challenges.
A mentor helps you to make decisions. Good decisions come from experience and experience comes from bad decisions. This is another powerful reason to have a mentor who is experienced and can be the guiding force in your decision making. You receive an unbiased, yet experienced, opinion. It’s not easy to make the best decisions when your knowledge is lacking. A mentor can fill that gap. You can be enthusiastic, serious, and capable, but your progress will be limited if you’re headed in the wrong direction!
A mentor can help you to overcome psychological barriers. Linda Rottenberg claims that the biggest barriers to success in today’s managerial and entrepreneurial world are not physical, educational or financial, they are psychological. The key to unlocking success, therefore, is believing in yourself and finding others who believe in you. A mentor plays that role to perfection. Your victory is his victory. Undoubtedly, mentoring relationships can break psychological barriers, challenge and inspire you, and they can help you propel your career or scale your business.
A mentor can equip you. You will gain the necessary tools in time to use them. Have you ever been in a situation that required certain tools which you didn’t have? A mentor will ensure you have the necessary tools and skills before you need to use them. Most of us decide to learn after we’ve failed. It’s much more effective to be prepared. A committed mentor won’t just introduce you to influential people, he will also introduce you to the right opportunities. He may also seek out opportunities on your behalf.
Mentors Are Inspiring. In most cases, inspiration never comes from without; it always comes from within. Too often, “within” translates as an unresolved conflict in the theatre of the mind, acted-out and directed by a person who has suffered certain episodes as a child. Such unresolved internal conflicts can normally only be resolved with the help of a therapist, yet a mentor can help you overcome this by sharing his own experiences. The subconscious mind understands metaphorical language beautifully.
A mentor is not a coach. To know more on this subject, please read my post elsewhere on Linkedin. Good coaches are best utilized to help someone move forward in a disciplined diligent manner, or to help you resolve (reconcile) a problem, or to guide you to help yourself when you get stuck, blocked, thwarted, or impaired, often by your own hand. A Mentor, on the other hand is a senior member who has made it in your field, in all likelihood knows it inside-and-out, and is in a far better position to help you get kick started with the right skills and approach.
Finding a good mentor can be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort. It is perhaps one of the best investments you can make in yourself and in your career. Good professional mentors don’t come cheap, but then there are others who would be glad to help without being compensated in cash. The perfect mentor is perhaps just waiting for someone to ask. Whether you are an entrepreneur or a goal-oriented professional, you need advice from someone who has already been where you are headed.
Here are a few strategies to find the right mentor for you:
1. Reach out to the experts in your field. Start out at the very top. While it’s unlikely that Bill Gates or the Dalai Lama will grant your request, you might find they’re willing to point you in the right direction. If that doesn’t work, work your way down the list.
2. Search online. There are websites that connect mentors with those looking for a mentor. One such example is www.findamentor.com. There are many other options available. I am by no means endorsing this website – it is merely an example.
3. Be prepared to show your level of commitment. A world-class expert might only consider working with someone that’s prepared to change the world. If your ambitions are a little more modest, you may need to convince your potential mentor that you’re serious. Everyone’s time is limited and all of them wish to spend it wisely.
A few (infamous) last words. Even self-made millionaires did not make it all alone. They had mentors. You have probably heard Mark Zuckerberg mention in an interview that Steve Jobs was his mentor on how to build a focused team. And you have also probably heard Richard Branson admit that he “wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker.”
Meanwhile, remember that the best way to learn and remember is to teach. So do not hesitate the slightest bit to go forward and mentor someone who can benefit from your experience, regardless of where you stand in your career. Everyone has something to learn and something to teach. It’s never too soon and never too late to start!
The author, Rajesh Seshadri, is an internationally recognized Certified Leadership Coach, Certified Success Coach and Certified Life Coach. He is also a NLP Master Practitioner, facilitator and therapist. The basket of therapies is holistic and integrative adopting techniques from Psychotherapy, NLP, Silva, Gestalt, Hypnosis and Silva UltraMind. Additionally, he is a seasoned corporate professional who continues to serve as a whole-time Director and Board Member. You can contact him here.