There is an age old saying “When the student is ready, the teacher appears!”
Given my penchant for business and entrepreneurship, I have molded this adage into its 21st century avatar.
“When the mentee is ready, the mentor appears”
I always tell all my friends that had I met the generous, experienced mentors I did later in my life just a touch earlier – there would be a “sir” in front of my name (Admit it Sir Philip Bennett sounds totally appropriate) or articles floating around the internet with interesting headings like “5 things you can learn from Philip Bennett”! I have generated an astounding amount of success for myself and hold my teachers and mentors in high regard as worthy contributors.
Even though mentorship is a thriving concept, there is a lot of speculation around the topic. Who is a mentor? What are the ground rules of a mentor-mentee relationship? How can one spot the perfect mentor? And obviously switching perspectives, what’s there in it for the mentor?
I wanted to call this piece Mentorship 101, but I believe the “main rung of the success ladder” is a tagline better suited to the information that I am about to share.
SO WHAT ARE THE OTHER RUNGS?
Glad you asked since the query also presents the opportunity to clarify something. Mentorship is not socializing! The notion of seeking or extending mentorship shouldn’t be entertained lightly because it can change lives. I have stumbled upon inspiring success stories but one that intrigues me discusses the adventures of Ryan Sanders, the Founder of the Haka Tourism Group of New Zealand. He affected two impressive career changes – from an ace contract Rugby player to Royal Bank of Scotland manager and from there on to being the intrepid entrepreneur who owns Haka (an adventure Tourism outfit).
Not only are the challenges piled against such dramatic transformations difficult, the fact that they took place over 4 mere years drives home the almost magical effect mentors can have on eager young minds and slumbering potential.
By self-admission, Ryan sought the assistance of an experienced business mentor to guide him through the turbulent, protean phase of his career. But he also ensured that the wisdom of the mentor dispensed was leveraged to the fullest extent.
Thus the other rungs of the proverbial success ladder are dedication, perseverance, the ability to put knowledge into implementation and an indomitable spirit. If you bring the magic mix of these virtues to the bubbling cauldron of mentorship, you can rest assured that success will visit you sooner than later!
WHO IS A MENTOR AND WHERE DO I FIND ONE?
This is a favorite saying of mine and you can quote me on it!
“A mentor is the hammer which can drive a square peg into a round hole”
Conventionally speaking a mentor is a professional experienced in a particular field, who is willing to invest time in individuals and guide them to the achievement of their personal goals through advice and positive behavior modelling.
However if you know me, jargon is not particularly appealing to my sensibilities.
I believe a mentor is someone who can help you, over a period of time, eliminate the unfavorable factors stacked against your potential success. You may start out feeling like a square peg in a round hole – inexperienced and not cut out for the path you are treading, but a mentor can transform that awkwardness into panache by letting you access the most valuable form of knowledge – experience (his to be precise).
Finding a mentor used to be a tall order. I struggled connecting with the right people who eventually helped me avoid a number of pitfalls. But fortunately, with the age of internet in full swing you can tap any of the following channels (or platforms) to seek assistance and guidance from a great mentor:
- Online mentorship programs for entrepreneurs. Every country has one
- LinkedIn connections and groups – you can private message the other members of the group that you are a part of and this can help you locate a number of mentors to reach out to
- Physical mentor-mentee events
- Mentorship programs organized by companies for the exclusive benefit of employees
A PERFECT MENTOR-MENTEE RELATIONSHIP
- Be personable and personal. When you reach out to potential mentors, take time to research their accomplishments and their field of expertise. This will not only re-affirm your decision to approach them for mentorship, it will also help you create a positive first impression. Canned queries and “templatized” outreach do not really speak favorably of the prospective mentee.
- Respect confidentiality. A mentor-mentee relationship is always private. There should not be a breach of trust from either side. Mentors may share sensitive information with mentees, who in turn are likely to share personal problems and pain points. A successful association demands both respect and trust.
- Have a well-defined agenda for the relationship. As always, I am a big believer in process and planning. Delineate the goals you wish to achieve with the guidance of your mentor. If the road ahead is not charted, your enterprise can never reach its destination.
- Commitment on both sides. A successful mentor-mentee relationship is one in which meetings are productive and they are not skipped by either party. Thus it is imperative to finalize a schedule, carefully choosing time, frequency and location of the meet-ups as per mutual convenience.
- Promise of execution. Lastly, a mentee needs to put into execution the wisdom a mentor imparts. More than tangible tokens of appreciation, the growing career graph of a mentee is a worthy reward for a mentor.
GIVING MENTORSHIP A CHANCE
All of us possess considerable expertise in some field or the other. As Christy Whitman says “Anyone can be a coach or a mentor. If you have lived for more than 20 years, you are ready”.
You can have a number of business mentors and in turn can take on the mantle of being a mentor for other people. Without doubt you have experience that can prove valuable to someone needing the counsel of your special perspective. Only you can lay claim to your unique set of experiences. There is a mentee out there who is your perfect student seeking what you have to offer.
Mentors also gain a lot out of the association. Mentees help expand their network by contributing their own precious connections. This not only translates into greater opportunities, it also implies improved access to industry news and trends. All in all more ammo to change lives on a larger, more profound scale.
I could go on and on! The topic of mentorship is like a coal mine. The deeper you delve the more diamonds of wisdom you unearth (without the soot of course!)
For succeeding as an entrepreneur, a mentor is literally the best substitute to the salt and pepper of first-hand experience (which is my opinion brings a lot of heartache and “why on earth” moments). Mentors swallow the bitter pills and give you the sweet takeaways. A win-win situation if there ever is one.