We all need mentors. It’s a question of good balance, better performance and…happiness ! Look at great sports(wo)men or great show performers. They may be at the top in in their field, they may master all professional skills, they may excell in using the newest techniques but they nevertheless work day by day with a personal coach.
In business as in life, mentoring brings the serenity needed to face new challenges. You can’t make wise decisions if you don’t sit back and reflect in a non-stressful atmosphere, with no interference from outside pressures or hierarchy. You need to share and reflect. You have to voice your doubts in full confidentiality. Then you’re ready to go back to the field.
Most of my younger friends agree with me on the idea to be mentored but they often ask me : « Where can I find my mentor ? And by the way, what is a good mentor ? ». Actually, answering the second question first might help answer the first…
Mentoring is sharing experience for a better performance and a better being. So you need to be mentored by someone who is a good listener. Someone who will not judge any of your thoughts or behaviors. Not judging but understanding. Someone who will not make decisions in your place but clarify the options, suggest new alternatives and illuminate your mind.
Experience is another thing you will look for in a mentor. If you need to solve strategic business problems, look for someone who already experienced strategic problem solving. If you need to share human relationships issues, search for someone who faced a number of relationship situations in the past. A mentor is not a friend. Rather a benevolent person who will reassure and push you to go over your own limits.
Mentoring is a one to one interaction, based on trust and understanding. It’s the process of providing personal advice on how to approach business problems and life. Trust is something you can’t formally define. You need to feel it. And it works both ways. As a mentor myself, I met some mentorees who were not sincere about their intentions. They had a hidden agenda linked to internal politics or a need to gain power instead of improving themselves. In that case, I could not trust them and declined mentoring them.
So, where can you find a suitable mentor ?
Some big groups offer that opportunty to young managers. They assign an internal mentor, a senior executive not working in the same team or the same country. But it’s not frequent. So, you need to be smart. Go networking with people older than you. Locate « good people », those who listen and talk rarely but wisely. Let your feelings play. Ask for a lunch or dinner and share some problems unformally, just to see. If you feel comfortable, you might ask for more.
If you want to have a more professional approach, go for a professional mentor. It may look expensive sometimes but actually, the time you need to spend with him or her is quite limited, so overall, it’s great value.