Date: January 26, 2023
The following is adapted from Becoming a Leader of Impact written by Braden Douglas
Leaders, especially young and aspiring ones, can save themselves from learning the ins and outs of business the hard way with the help of one person: a mentor.
A mentor can be a tremendously helpful resource, yet less than 10% of leaders report having someone who is committed to their development in all aspects of life. Another 32% have a mentor in their workplace, whether it is a supervisor or direct report.
If you don’t have a mentor at this point in your career, it’s not too late. There are plenty of people who are willing and able to help you make a professional impact, as long as you know how and where to find them.
When you imagine the perfect mentor for you, who do you see?
Many leaders wish they had a business icon like Warren Buffett or Peter Drucker as a mentor. They picture themselves meeting regularly together, laughing, strategizing, crying, and being motivated by them to achieve greatness. A celebrity mentor is not going to happen for 99.8% of you. But it doesn’t have to.
Most often, leaders are typically mentored by a number of people at various times in their lives. To find the right mentor for you, seek out people in your life and be intentional. Ask to have coffee with them. Have questions prepared, and don’t be afraid to ask the deeper ones.
People inclined to be mentors want to share their knowledge, but many of them don’t know where to start or what you need. You have to take charge of your life and tell them what you want.
Maybe you’ve initiated a mentor relationship or been placed in one at work. In either case, know that it’s okay if the arrangement doesn’t work out. A mentor-mentee relationship is built on trust and mutual investment, so you can’t force it if the chemistry and commitment isn’t there.
I learned that lesson firsthand during the early days of my career. When I worked at Frito-Lay, the HR department created a mentoring initiative that selected younger employees and teamed them up with a manager or director from another function.
My mentor was an operations director who oversaw production in one of the chip plants. We would meet every two weeks for an hour or lunch and get to know each other. He was a good guy, but the relationship, and eventually the program, fizzled out.
There’s always a caveat with work-related mentors in that the employment agreement typically gets in the way. Do they really care about you as a whole person, or are they more concerned with what the organization needs from the role you occupy and how to get you to be more productive?
If you can’t trust that they care about your development as a professional separate from your current company, the mentor relationship likely won’t last or be beneficial to either one of you.
As you seek a mentor, keep in mind that just as you may want to have a mentor, there are also leaders who want to be mentored by you.
Take the time to give back by finding someone to mentor yourself, but don’t own the relationship: the mentee has to be hungry and desire your input. It’s like the old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
If you know less-experienced leaders who could learn from you, let them know you’re available to talk without being pushy or condescending. That said, don’t be afraid to start the conversation. Invite a young leader for coffee or a meeting and start by asking them questions in three areas of impact: professional, personal, and spiritual. Find out if they feel like they’re succeeding in life and see where you can help.
Chances are you’ll find the opportunity to share your wisdom and experience with them. If the young leaders are not hungry to learn, don’t waste your time. Let ripe fruit rot. Focus on the green and growing ones.
No one succeeds alone. We all need people in our lives to help us grow professionally, personally, and spiritually, and your mentor can be that guiding force.
If you find someone you truly connect with, whom you trust and can be honest with, your mentor-mentee relationship can last a lifetime. The right person will feel invested in your career progression and offer valuable advice as you strive to make an impact at every level of your journey.
Similarly, open yourself up to taking a mentee of your own. Be the person that others need to help them grow. If you give as well as receive guidance, your whole world grows brighter.
For more advice on making a significant impact on the world, you can find Becoming a Leader of Impact on Amazon.com.
Braden Douglas is the founder of CREW Marketing Partners, one of the fastest growing marketing and creative agencies in Canada and the US. Founded in 2007, CREW has won numerous awards for their service and brand leadership. Braden started his career in brand management at Frito Lay and Procter & Gamble, but throughout his life, his passion has been helping leaders make a significant impact in the world. He currently volunteers with LeaderImpact as a member of the Global Advisory Board, where he plays a key role mentoring leaders, speaking, and developing content.
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