If you’re considering getting involved in a mentoring relationship, it’s a pretty important question, don’t you think? You’re effectively bringing a new person into your business ‘team’ and you need to make sure that they’re the right person for you. So who should you choose as a mentor?
I thought for while about how to answer this question. Should I try to put together a fairly generic ‘shopping list’, like this one? Or should I take a different approach? In the end I chose the latter.
So I challenge you… think back about people you’ve worked with who have made a positive difference to you and to your career. Then think about what it was about them, that made your relationship with them special.
Opening your eyes
One example for me is a former manager that I had when I was in my 20s. I had passed through the ‘new graduate’ stage of my career and I was at the point of starting to move up the career ladder. He had multiple degrees, was hugely successful and respected in his field, and he barely spoke to me when he interviewed me!
Obviouisly I got the job, and given the junior level of my role in his team, he could easily have allowed me to remain so. I still had Minutes to write, admin to do and more senior colleagues to support, sure. But he also pushed me way outside of my comfort zone. He encouraged me to embrace new experiences and to engage with senior people, despite knowing that I was rather daunted. After a while, he gave me responsibility for an area that I knew virtually nothing about. He listened to me. He respected me. And most importantly, he believed in me, and trusted the abilities that I didn’t yet know I had.
These are the most important qualities for me in a prospective mentor, and Oprah captures why, perfectly.
A mentor is someone that allows you to see the hope inside you.Oprah Winfrey
I like your style
Aside from what he did for me, I also really related to the way he did it. Given his education, experience and reputation, he could have easily spent his time telling me what to do. But that’s something he never did.
Instead, he always discussed things with me, allowing me the time and space to give my opinions, even if they conflicted with his own. He pushed me and challenged me, and when I didn’t want to do something, he very quietly and gently made sure I did it anyway.
I have no idea whether he took a different approach with other members of the team. Or whether things would have been different, had I been a different person. But all I know is that his style was absolutely right for me, and while I worked with him, I learned so much!
So I challenge you. When you’re deciding who you should choose as a mentor, look into your past. Find those people who made a positive difference in your lives, and those who helped you achieve your goals. Think about what was special about them, and then look for those same qualities in a potential mentor.
There have been others in my life whose qualities would also be important in deciding who I would choose as a mentor. But equally there are those who have taught me what to avoid.
So my advice to you – don’t choose someone who doesn’t listen or who knocks your confidence. Look for those who allow you to dream and to work towards achieving them. When deciding who you should choose as a mentor, do as Oprah says, and choose someone who allows you to see the hope inside you.