How to Find a Mentor and Make a Mentoring Relationship Work

Posted by Joseph Sherren on February 22, 2016

In response to my post a few weeks ago, several readers wanted to know how to make a mentoring relationship work more effectively, especially since we all have different communication styles, conflicting value systems, different priorities, and diverse personalities.

For organizations, establishing a mentoring process is even more critical today as companies develop their succession plan. In fact, highly successful people often use more than one mentor throughout their career.

The dictionary defines a mentor as “an experienced and trusted advisor, a trusted counselor, guide, tutor or coach,” or a “person who imparts wisdom.” The word “mentor” comes from the Odyssey of Homer when the goddess, Athena, assumed the form of Odysseus’s friend, Mentor, who was entrusted with the education of Telemachus, the son of Odysseus.

So, how do you go about finding that trusted advisor? It is a little bit like dating. If you do not already have a relationship, just start with coffee or lunch. Determine if your personalities are a match and if they have the background and expertise best suited to help you achieve your objectives.

One of the main attributes of a successful mentoring relationship is trust. Are you sure the mentor you are considering has your best interests at heart? Are you sure that what you tell them will be kept absolutely confidential?

When looking for a mentor, consider the following:

  1. Why do you want a mentor? Do you want specific advice on a particular decision? Are you looking for someone to help you gain access to people and places you might not otherwise achieve? Or, do you just need a sounding board?
  2. Let the person know why you’re asking them specifically and what you hope to gain from the relationship.
  3. Look for an individual whom you respect and is living the life or has the career you want. Remember, this should be a person you truly admire, not just someone who is popular.
  4. Begin with just a pilot that will be re-evaluated in three months. That gives each of you the opportunity to reconsider should either of you feel it is not a good match.
  5. Always remember to be grateful. Do not let your mentor feel exploited. Give them feedback. If they suggested something that really worked well, let them know. Most people love hearing how they have been able to help.
  6. Finally, is the person you are considering a happy person? Just because someone is well-liked and successful, does not mean they are happy. If a person is working at a job they secretly detest, that person is probably not your ideal mentor.

Everyone will reach a point in their life when they will ask – What am I doing for others? If you are considering becoming a mentor for someone, here are some thoughts for you to consider:

  • The most successful relationships are driven by the mentee, not you. They do the work and makes things happen, you are just the guide.
  • Being a mentor can help you in a later phase of life as you may be the mentee in your second or even third career.
  • In the technological area particularly, often the mentor can be younger than the mentee.
  • Don’t wait for someone to approach you. Remember Yoda? Luke Skywalker didn’t go looking for Yoda. It was Yoda who took the pro-active role in reaching out to Luke.

My question for those of you who are successful business managers: “Are you taking an active role in helping newer managers achieve success?”

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Recent Articles:

Mentoring: Gaining Wisdom Without Risk

Create Happiness Within Yourself by Making Others Happy

Those Who Say “Not My Job” Will Never Be Rich


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