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Recruit a Mentor

Mentoring isn't having someone "pick your brain."

Mentoring isn't having someone pick your brain over lunch.

Challenging times like these exacerbate already high levels of stress among sales leaders, especially those who have not experienced the bottoms of economic cycles.  In that context the subject of mentoring has come up a number of times in the past week.  That’s a signal to me to write about it. 

Mentoring is different from a coaching.  Coaching is task-oriented.  Mentoring is related to longer term changes in behavior, skills and attitudes.

Over the years I’ve provided mentees with support, contacts, insights, my experience, opinions and balanced and honest feedback. I don’t charge a fee for being a mentor, although there is a definite balance of value for a mentor/mentee relationship to work. Due to my own time constraints and a tendency not to have an abundance of patience, I’ve selected mentees very carefully.

Here are some thought on mentoring:

  1. Do you need a mentor?  The answer is probably yes. There are times that most of us just aren’t able to gain the wisdom and knowledge necessary to move to the next level in our jobs or careers. Some challenge may seem insurmountable, and without engineering and executing a dramatic break-through, we are literally stuck.  An effective mentor can provide honest assessment, insight, and the objective perspective and support required for ongoing success. 

  2. What qualities should a mentor have?  For a relationship with a mentor to be effective for you, the mentor must be knowledgeable about, and have experience in, the subject(s) in which you seek guidance, be willing to take the time to work with you and be a good communicator. They must be discreet, caring, and able to guide you in solving problems. 

  3. Where do you find a mentor?  Due to political risks, I always recommend that you recruit a mentor outside your company. It certainly shouldn’t be your current boss. With that in mind, consider some or all of the following: a former boss from another company, a known expert in the domain in which you are seeking knowledge, someone in your business (or even personal) network, a recommendation from someone you respect in the area in which you are seeking improvement. 

  4. What are your responsibilities? For a mentor/mentee relationship to work, you must be willing to work hard at improvement. That means defining and accepting your shortcomings and being open to changing or forming new habits.  You’ll need to try new strategies and tactics. You must be be responsible for executing what you and your mentor decide is the best course of action. You have to be honest, objective, appreciative, motivated and have the courage to change. 

  5. What’s in it for the mentor?  To be honest, here is what I get out of mentoring: The satisfaction of helping someone who needs and wants my assistance. In addition, I get to improve my own coaching, leadership, communication and management skills. I often get new ideas and insights from my mentees. And my mentees provide me with an expansion of my business and professional network. 

  6. How should you proceed once you have recruited a mentor?  First, jointly assess your situation—where you feel you are versus where you need to be, the issues or problems that may be causing, what has worked and what has not. Next talk about your goal—what you want to achieve. Then you and your mentor can discuss various options or strategies and related tasks/tactics to achieve those goals. If you have put an appropriate measurement in place related to the goal, there will be no question at all when you have achieved it.  

  7. One thing that you should not do.  Don’t call someone you don’t know whom you think can provide you with an idea or two and invite them out to breakfast, lunch or dinner in order to “pick their brain.” That’s not mentoring. It’s insulting.

By the way, if you’re interested in mentoring a kid go to mentoring.org.

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