It took a year-end offsite with her team for Sarabeth to realize that she had become complacent about her own development and allowed herself to fall behind. The offsite facilitator asked each team member to share a new insight, practice or learning that made a difference to them over the course of the year. One by one team members highlighted a significant "aha" or turn-around skill; the responses were powerful. Almost to a person, each attributed his or her growth to working with a mentor. Sarabeth struggled to identify any growth or significant learning and nothing came even remotely came close to the substantive experiences of her colleagues. Sarabeth couldn't believe that she had become so focused on getting the job done, that she lost sight of her own growth and development. She saw how easy it had been to get caught up in the day to day, but how the others, working with a mentor, had kept at least one eye focused on their own growth and development.
Carl started working for his company when it was a small training organization with three employees. Five years later, that small company had been sold to a large publishing conglomerate and Carl was running a department of 25 trainers and developers responsible for new products and quality. Carl's close personal relationship with the president had made it easy to discuss issues and make decisions. Now Carl rarely had a chance to interact with his old friend. He found himself rehashing pros and cons, over-deliberating and second-guessing his decisions. Carl was floundering and realized he needed the advice and support of someone who had been in similar shoes and been more successful at making the transition to "the big leagues."
Both Sarabeth and Carl had gaps in their learning that drove them to seek a mentor. Learning is the purpose of mentoring. It is why you do it. It is how you do it. And, it is what you get for doing it.
Whether you are a mentor or a mentee there are certain questions you need to be prepared to answer
to determine your own readiness to engage in a mentoring relationship. SELECTING A MENTOR
When the choice of a mentoring partner is thought out, mentoring partners are more engaged, enthusiastic and satisfied. It is easy to get drawn into a relationship because someone is very charismatic and has an engaging personality. Look beyond initial impressions and identify specific criteria or you may end up passing up an incredible learning experience with someone who is very wise and talented and committed to your growth and development. Finding the Right Mentor Can Bolster a Career
. MEET NICK
Nick made a list of what he was looking for in a mentor.
- Someone from outside the company. (He didn't want to share the details of his conflict with his CEO with anyone inside the company.)
- Someone who had either been in his shoes as a COO, or, as a CEO (This person would need to be someone who knew what it was like to make hard decisions and work with the COO to execute them.)
- Someone who had a track record of motivating folks from the floor (This was one of the issues he was also grappling with.)
- Someone who would be accessible. (Given his crazy schedule and constant travel to three plants in three different states)
- Someone who would bring energy and enthusiasm.
He looked over his list and realized that he had a lot of needs and they weren't all created equal. When he prioritized them he realized that the perspective of the CEO and accessibility were the most important criteria for him.
Nick considered his previous boss - a CEO not unlike his current boss who tended to micro-manage, but had responded well when Nick pushed back - and then rejected him as a mentor because of his lack of accessibility. He mentally scanned his LinkedIn connections as well as the people he had met during his business trips. He immediately recalled an executive leader named John he met at a recent tradeshow. Nick regretted that he hadn't followed up after their meeting, but instinctively felt John would make a good mentor for him. He reviewed his list of criteria and it validated his hunch.
FOLLOW THE STEPS
Nick was deliberate in his choice and used criteria to test out his decision. An objective measure minimizes personal bias and focuses on end results. Our Decision Making Matrix
includes eight steps for identifying a mentor. The criteria you develop and their order of importance can inform your conversation and inquiry when you approach a prospective mentor. Whatever your situation, you are essentially asking someone to make a big commitment of time and energy to guide you in your development. You need to be clear about what it is you are looking for.