7 Considerations for Working with a Mentor

Have you ever felt overwhelmed and lonely in your business and wished that you had someone to turn to for advice and support?

In April one of my brightest guiding lights went out when my 92 year old Uncle Gordon passed away. It made me realise how fortunate I had been to have him as a mentor and role model since the age of 17. He literally changed my life when he persuaded me to continue with my education rather than leave school to take up an apprenticeship. His advice and guidance was invaluable as I built my businesses and grew as a person.

Then a few weeks ago I was talking with a friend who runs her own business and was surprised to discover that she did not have a mentor. She seemed unsure of why someone would want to mentor her and how to go about finding and working with a mentor.

Most successful people, even the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson, have mentors that they work with on a regular basis. I believe that mentors are a critical element of both personal and business success.

Below I have outlined 7 key considerations for a successful mentoring partnership

1. Be clear on your objectives
It is important to be clear on the areas where you are looking for advice and guidance. It may be simply to bounce off ideas and solve problems or it may be more specific eg marketing advice or scaling your business. Don’t overlook the value of mentors to support your personal development as well as your professional journey.

2. Step up with confidence
My friend didn’t think anyone would want to mentor her and also expected that she would need to pay for it. The reality is that there are many successful people from all areas of business that get great pleasure in giving some of their time to help others to learn and succeed. So be bold and ask someone you respect or admire. Perhaps start with your network or maybe even a former boss.

Also if for some reason it is not working as expected don’t be shy to re-evaluate and move on if necessary.

3. Set clear expectations from the start
Have a clear understanding of the time and structure of your interactions. I have a number of mentors for different areas of my life and business. Some of them are structured such as fortnightly or monthly calls or meetings and others are more informal and ad hoc on an “as needs” basis. The key is that I have had a discussion with each mentor to ensure that we are on the same page with regard to both time commitment and accessibility.

4. Pick someone who is going to challenge you
It may be great to get positive feedback and have someone to agree with your ideas but you will almost certainly benefit more from someone who is prepared to ask you the hard questions and keep you accountable. On the flip side, have the courage of your convictions to question their suggestions and recommendations yourself where appropriate.

5. Turn up fully every time
Prepare for every session and be clear what you are wanting to achieve. When necessary forward information in advance to your mentor and if you commit to doing something stick to your commitment. If there is nothing of significance to discuss in a planned session cancel it or postpone it rather than waste your mentors time.

6. They are not your agony aunt
Whilst there will no doubt be times, especially as the relationship evolves, where you may feel comfortable sharing your woes be sure that your mentor does not end up feeling like your counsellor.

7. Show appreciation
It should be obvious. An email or sms thank you from time to time, a dinner, lunch or small gift and keeping a look out for a referral that may benefit your mentor will surely help to strengthen the partnership.

Hopefully you are already working with a mentor and this article may serve as a prompt to take a step back and evaluate whether you are both getting the most out of the partnership. Maybe there are ways that it can be further enhanced.

If not, perhaps it’s time to outline a set of objectives, identify a short list of potential mentors and approach them with confidence.

Either way, it has the potential to enhance both your business and personal development to help take you to the next level.