The following is a guest blog post written by Bonnie Cox of Power Training Institute. Bonnie reiterates some of the important messages we try to share with the Management Mentors' blog audience regarding mentoring relationships.
Is there really such a thing as a “self-made man (or woman)?” Probably not. Ask any successful person what launched them in their career and they will tell you they had a mentor whogave them sound advice and guidance.
In my own career, I’ve been fortunate to have influential mentors at different stages. One though stands out above the rest. Bill was an engineer by education, but was quite well read in the areas of psychology, management, and human behavior. He and I were working on forecasting for a specific division of the company and he coached me through setting up Excel spreadsheets to run regression analyses. I really had no idea what I was doing; it was like drinking water from a high-pressure water hose, but having Bill coach me through the process taught me how to model proactive, forward-thinking action.
For those thinking, “Oh, I don’t need a mentor. I get along just fine at my job.” Be careful. That is a dangerous, self-sabotaging way to think. Everyone can use a mentor. Even successful CEOs can still benefit from having someone to give them input based on their experiences and expertise.
Although sometimes a person may offer to mentor you and sometimes the perfect mentor comes along serendipitously, usually you will have to seek someone out, so choose them carefully.
- Find someone that is respected by you and by others. If you don’t have respect for them you will not be inclined to take their advice and if they don’t have the respect of others, then they may not be someone you should take advice from.
- Look for a person that is not afraid to be straightforward with you. You want someone to hold you accountable to your goals and give you honest feedback, but in a non-confrontational way. Your mentor needs to be someone who can give you truthful answers to your questions while also asking the hard questions you may not want to answer.
- Choose a mentor in a different division than yours and who is more senior than you. Don’t let seniority intimidate you from seeking a mentor. Those who are higher up the food chain will be able to give you the most valuable advice about your goals and performance.
Finally, try finding a “reverse mentor.” Seek out a person who is younger than you so that you get a hipper, more youthful perspective. In my life, this person is a Generation Y’er who has a totally different perspective on life than I do and has helped me move into the 21st century. This type of mentor can help you stay up to date on new trends, changing perceptions, and, perhaps most importantly, innovative technology. As much as some would like to dismiss certain technology as fads that will pass away, many of the changes that take place will change the face of your industry or business forever (just think about micro-blogging and the importance of Twitter!).
Mentorship is really a two-step process. First, find a mentor whose behavior you admire and respect. Then, go out and model their behavior.
Bonnie Cox, Founder of Power Training Institute, author of “52 Secrets to Being a C.O.R.E. Employee” and an HR professional, offers management and communications training solutions as a corporate facilitator and motivational speaker.