I was recently interviewed on The Small Business Advocate Radio Show about the evolution of mentoring over the past few years/decades.
While much has changed, one issue that remains a constant is the challenge of choosing the best professional mentor for your executive development. Of course, recommendations from peers are the gold standard for reducing uncertainty and risk. But as with any bespoke service, just because a mentor has a great reputation and worked well with a peer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this person is a fit with your unique needs.
So how do you safely venture outside of the comfort of peer recommendations to choose the mentor who is right for you? Fortunately, there are more ways than ever to vet prospective advisors and coaches before you ever discuss an engagement. For instance, some of our best clients heard me (Pam) speak at conferences or on the radio, or read one of our articles, so they had an initial impression of our thoughts and style.
Regardless of how you find your prospective mentor, it’s important to have a candid conversation with him/her in each of the three areas below before you go forward with the relationship. Remember, there are no “right” answers – only the answers that are right for you:
Why do you need a mentor now? Is your executive development a “nice to do” or a “must do”? Why? Are you ready to commit to doing what it takes to get what you say you want? The clearer and more open you are with a prospective mentor about your reasons for the engagement, the more likely you are to succeed.
What outcomes do you need? When you link the purpose of mentoring to a strategic priority, it’s more likely for the engagement to meet your expectations. For example, an outcome for one of our clients was developing his executive leadership to maximize his company’s innovation and speed to market. When you both agree on the specific measures that will support this outcome, it’s easier to track progress.
What makes this mentor’s approach right for you? It takes more than wisdom and experience to be a mentor; building mutual trust and an up-front understanding between the two of you about a mentor’s approach to your needs plays a huge role in your success. This can range from from quick answers to your ad hoc questions to guiding you through a customized process resulting in new insights, decisions, and actions.
When both you and your mentor are clear about your mutual expectations for the relationship, it will be worth the time and investment now and pay exponential dividends in the years to come.