By Cheryl Crumb

Reblogged from The Experion Group


What makes successful people successful? Sure, they’re likely bright. They might have advanced education. Maybe they were even lucky. There’s another hugely important ingredient to add to the mix.


Think about it … what do the following successful people have in common: Sir Richard Branson, Alexander the Great, Oliver Stone, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and David Beckham?


They all had mentors … experienced people who thought, “You are worth my time and effort; I can offer you ways to expand your horizons and increase the likelihood that you will achieve success”.
The Chinese ancients had a proverb:


“A single conversation across the table with a wise man is worth a month’s study of books”.


Albeit politically incorrect and gender dismissive, this belief was echoed by Dr. Beverley Kay in her recent book “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go” when she said,


“Behind every successful person there is one elementary truth: somewhere, somehow, someone cared about their growth and development. This person was their mentor”.


Enlightened organizations are realizing the truth behind these statements and are orchestrating formal mentoring programs as part of their knowledge management and succession management strategies. Find a wise and experienced individual and team her/him up with an emerging leader.



Why A Mentor Matters


Why do you want to have a mentor? Look at this laundry list and select what appeals to you:


  • Offer you experienced guidance and support
  • Further your professional development
  • Share the pros and cons of various career paths
  • Offer new and different perspectives
  • Be a sounding board to test your ideas and plans
  • Expand your personal network
  • Provide you constructive feedback on your developmental areas


Boiled down, a mentor’s role is to help you become a better observer of yourself and your blind spots. That let’s you take new actions you didn't have the knowledge, perspective or courage to take previously.


From a more personal level, a mentor is there to:


  • Be someone you can confide in during your darkest hours
  • Help you to get back up when you crash
  • Help you to accept changes or change what you can’t accept
  • Rebalance yourself
  • Find your motivation when it’s temporarily lost
  • Help you to think outside your box
  • Introduce you to contacts
  • Step out of your comfort zone


Finding A Mentor


But what if your organization isn’t enlightened? What if you’re on your own with no company resources behind you? Take charge and find a mentor!


Keep your eye open for people you respect … people who have enjoyed the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” as ABC’s Wide World of Sports proclaimed decades ago. Since wisdom isn’t gained easily, learning includes spectacular failures! Be bold and ask an individual if they would be willing to be your mentor, that you would be honoured to learn from them.


Why Mentors Mentor


Why might mentors willingly invest themselves in you? Past mentors have told me


  • mentoring renews their enthusiasm
  • they enjoy the opportunity to share expertise
  • mentoring enhances their skills in coaching
  • mentoring allows them to practice a more personal style of leadership
  • mentoring enhances their generational awareness.


How To Be A Mentee


Being a mentee isn’t about sitting at the feet of your mentor and waiting for her/him to pontificate brilliance. Instead, actively take ownership, identify your initial learning goals, use your initiative to drive mentoring sessions, be open and coachable, seek feedback, accept criticism graciously, and ask questions.


Contrary to popular belief, the most effective mentoring relationships are ones in which the mentee is relatively proactive and the mentor is relatively passive. In other words … you as mentee need to be in charge!


The Process


The mentoring process begins with definition: together, define your boundaries, set your ground rules, clarify your objectives. Share perceptions you think others have of you, and what you see as your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest with your mentor and yourself. The second stage is identifying your developmental needs and priorities. The third stage is action: ask for insights, discuss options, set a plan, practice, do it, debrief.


Remember, mentoring should lead to change. It was Darwin who said,


“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”.


Mistakes are inevitable!


Get Started


Start by reflecting:


  • What do you really want to be and do?
  • What are you doing really well that is helping you get there?
  • What are you not doing well that is preventing you from getting there?
  • What are you willing to do differently tomorrow to meet those challenges?
  • How can your mentor help?


Arrangements can be formal or informal. To formalize with your mentor, create a contract including your willingness to be coachable, the number of times you will connect monthly, how long your meetings will last, how you will deal with confidentiality, and how you will periodically assess the value to both of you.


Mentoring is a science and an art. And don’t despair if The Most Respected Individual You Know is 4,000 km away … phone mentoring can be very powerful!


Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Buy the T-shirt!



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