So, what are some key requirements to help select the right mentor, no matter what?
As mentioned last month, you have to be able to trust your mentor. Your initial conversations should show alignment in values, character, belief and anything else important for your relationship. Remember if you can’t open up to your mentor, then you are immediately limiting the value of what you can achieve from your time together. The qualities and requirements of your mentor should not cause you to go to unnecessary lengths to improve yourself.
Secondly, your mentor has to have more experience than you in the areas you want to work on. How much more? Lots. You don’t want to go to someone who learned it last week. Find a person with the breadth of knowledge and practical application that has caused them to fail, recover and overcome. Your mentor’s experience should not just reflect their wins, but will be tinged with their losses and how they mastered those experiences. They will be willing to share their experiences and provide insight into your circumstances based on those experiences. And they will be a leader in their field demonstrating their experience daily.
I hinted at it in the last blog, but very importantly your mentor must be a listener, hearing the depths of what you are saying. If they are continually interrupting you and trying to solve the problems as you go, then that is not for you. Great mentors will take notes for reflection once you have shared, for clarity and questioning. And that is the next trait – Questioning. Mentors will ask good deep questions to both understand the underlying issues and challenge you for reflection and direction. So, if the questions are sparse, maybe consider other options.
Your mentor will encourage and support you; they won’t talk down to you or think less of you because of where you are on your journey. That is why you are there, to grow and improve. They will have a genuine interest in you as a person, and as someone they can invest time and effort into to help. They will be committed to you and your times together, not distracted but focussed only on your needs. More importantly, they will confront you in your attitude, behaviour, or circumstance, to challenge where you are and highlight any potential areas that need to be addressed for you to grow and change.
Finally, a great mentor will hold you to account. You should establish goals and plans early on that you are progressing with. If you agree to do something between visits, they will check on your progress and review what you have done. This may involve checks between sessions to make sure you are moving forward and in the right direction.
But if you are not receiving any benefit in the short- to medium-term, don’t continue to waste each other’s time; cut your ties and find someone who can help. Not everyone can mentor, and not everyone can be mentored. Mentoring is a leadership skill that is developed through a lot of experience and challenges. Value your mentor especially if they are helping you to grow. Above all keep transforming yourself, and be on the lookout to help others around you to grow.