Question any leader or executive about their success and eventually they’ll tell you that their mentor played a big role. Today, however, there is no Jedi-Master Yoda, wise and powerful, taking on people and unlocking the paths to business immortality. The onus is now yours to find numerous mentors, build the relationships, learn from them, weave the skills together, and create your successful identity. No single master, but a collage of mentors.
Finding your mentors
You’ll normally rub shoulders with skills mentors, people willing to help and mentor, during your first week at a company. It’s important from the outset to find the more capable people. Relational mentors, in contrast, are more difficult to locate. But you should watch interactions both within and outside your discipline, looking for potential mentors. Relational experts tend to be excellent facilitators, know how to question without making people defensive, have a lot of language at their fingertips, can read people well, create a motivational atmosphere and readily engage in team problem solving. As you become a good “noticer of mentors” you’ll have a leg up on your competition.
Locating career and strategic mentors is a much more difficult game...
Sometimes you can locate a strategic mentor in highly relevant jobs. For example, when I consulted for 3M, I worked with a manager who was responsible for learning the defense business so 3M could break into that market. He was very knowledgeable about government and military policy, knew the changes currently going on in the field and had a great deal of insight into what was liable to be taking place that could affect people and organizations over the next three to ten years. I was able to apply some of his strategic information to my consulting business.
In sum, make mentor development part of your professional fuel. These are the people who can give you the confidence to rise above your doubts and fears and make you feel secure enough to take risks. They are often exceptionally capable at supporting your attempts to set and achieve goals for yourself. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, they present opportunities and highlight challenges you wouldn’t have on your radar. Finding and using mentors is necessary for both survival and success. Sure, it’s to your personal advantage, but a more capable and knowledgeable employee is also of great value to any organization.
How will you find and gain access to great mentors in this environment? That’s a blog still to come.
Miss the first sections of this series? Read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here. Read Part 3 here.