To think you can do anything alone in today's world is not only naive but incredibly difficult, stressful, and a complete waste of your time and energy.
While you can certainly score a few wins on your own, but the foundation of sustainable success is people. Without the right people in your corner, you have no chance of achieving any measure of true success.
When selected carefully, the most important people to have in your corner are your mentors. A well nurtured and developed mentorship relationship with a great mentor is probably one of the most fulfilling and rewarding types of relationships you can have in your professional life.
“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” Denzel Washington
What is a great mentor?
A great mentor is anyone who:
have achieved a high level of experience and mastery in one or more areas that are important for you or your business
is willing to put in the time and energy to help you learn and develop in those areas
is willing to share all they know openly without reservations
is patient and skilled at knowledge transfer using different teaching and coaching styles
is happy for you when you surpass their level of expertise and mastery
is personally invested in your success
is not paid to do so*
* Nothing wrong with being paid, just don't call it a mentorship relationship with a mentor, if paid call consultancy/advisory/coaching/contractual relationship with a consultant/advisor/coach/contractor.
“What I think the mentor gets is the great satisfaction of helping somebody along, helping somebody take advantage of an opportunity that maybe he or she did not have.” Clint Eastwood
Why working with a great mentor is a must?
The world is moving at an incredible pace in almost every aspect of your professional life, and while you continue to have less time, you are expected do more; give more value, develop and grow, and be the very best you can be.
You may be a master and an expert in certain areas, but that simply means you are a beginner and less experienced in other areas, and if you are facing challenges in those areas that's where a great mentor can help you address those challenges faster, smarter and with minimal loss of time and resources. Now who in their right mind wouldn't want that!
“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” John C. Maxwell
Why finding and keeping great mentors is hard?
While many gladly offer their time and expertise as mentors, which is very much needed and admirable. The fact remains that truly great mentors are a rare breed and they are in high demand, so they tend to be highly selective about people they work with and they guard their time and energy very carefully.
Most great mentors choose their mentees with the same rigor and scrutiny investors choose their investments. Many people are not ready to work with a great mentor and can't handle the level of preparedness and work that working with a great mentor demands of them.
What are some of the practical strategies to finding and keeping great mentors?
Smart entrepreneurs are obsessed with finding great mentors, because they know that great mentors can help them advance their business much faster with far less effort which helps them get their ideas off the ground, launch, fund and grow their startup while the lone wolf entrepreneurs are still stuck in their proverbial garage trying to perfect their product on their own.
Here are 5 of the most practical strategies to find and keep great mentors:
1. Always Be Networking
Networking is the process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence and serve the community.
There is nothing like attending great events, engaging with new people, and opening yourself to discovering and learning new things. Great mentors are networkers, they are always on the lookout for great people to mentor.
Sure, start looking on LinkedIn for a possible mentor, but once you find some candidates find out where they network and go meet them face to face. They are more likely to notice you and be open in person, remember, if they are great there will be many people reaching out to them and your message and outreach may get lost in the crowd.
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2. Be Generous
Great mentors are givers by nature and it's very easy to fall into the trap of immediately asking for help, and they will gladly help. But you will not stand out and you will just be one of many they met who wanted their help.
To stand out and be remembered the next time you meet a mentor, be generous and ask how you can help? There is nothing like a genuine offer to help.
The mentor will appreciate that, and you will stand out in their eyes compared to the many who didn't offer any help.
PS: be ready to let them know how you can help. Share your area of expertise, networks you are part of, and people you are connected to, that you are willing to offer to help.
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
Most people either ask too soon, ask for the wrong thing or never ask at all. Now that you are networking and being generous, people and particularly mentors will most likely ask you how they can help.
Depending on the person and the conversation you are having you can probably ask the person to be your mentor. However, it's highly recommended you don't do that.
Remember, most great mentors are like savvy investors, they are careful where they invest their time and energy. They need to learn more about you and your work before they say yes. They would also appreciate if you are selective as well and you take your time to choose a mentor. That means you value the relationship.
While networking you will also meet connectors who can connect you to great mentors if you ask. Treat them like mentors. Network, be generous and ask.
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4. Make it Easy
Start by asking for something they will say yes to, a quick coffee to ask them a few questions is a great start.
You can also let them know you are on the lookout for great people to learn from and you will appreciate if they are willing to explore the possibility and possibly introduce you to great people like them as well.
Be specific on what kind of mentor you want? on what topics? and what are the specific qualities and skills that matter to you in a mentor?
Have an email intro ready to send to make it easy for people to introduce you; a 100 words about you and what you are working on (not a pitch, just a human description) + 2 lines on why you want to meet the person (NOT TO SELL THEM, what you want to learn, what you want their help with, what you read about them that got you interested)
5. Be Clear And Be Ready
Whether you end up meeting the mentor for a quick few questions over coffee, for an actual mentorship session or you've developed an ongoing mentorship relationship, always be ready to be clear about your goals, vision, objectives, the help you are looking for and in which area.
There is nothing that turns off a great mentor more than an unprepared and sloppy mentee. That simply means that you do not value the mentor's time and expertise enough to prepare and do your homework.
Remember, great mentors are success hungry, highly effective and productive, with huge demand on their time and experience, so if they choose to spend their time with you, show them appreciation not with your words of thank you, which is nice, but more importantly with how much you prepare, and how much you apply what you learned.
“Colleagues are a wonderful thing – but mentors, that’s where the real work gets done.” Junot Diaz
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Bonus Strategy: Don't Sit Around Waiting - Get Shit Done!
While searching for a great mentor, keep on learning from the best in the world, read the top books in the areas you are seeking a mentor in. By the time you find your mentor, you would have learned and progressed. They will be impressed with your effort, you will hit it off because they've probably read the same books, and because you share common ground you will hit the ground running.
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