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It Takes Two: How to Get the Most out of Having a Mentor

It Takes Two: How to Get the Most out of Having a Mentor

For some reason, the idea of a mentor seems like an old fashioned concept doesn’t it? Some thing that might create mental images of knights and squires, or even Jedi, certainly not something that can work in contemporary working relationships. Sure, maybe your guidance counselor or sports coach was kind of a mentor, but that was years ago…

In education, it is recognized that teaching a student one to one can be more effective than in a traditional classroom setting. Here a teacher can model the teaching to their student instead of fitting it around a group. They can work with their student better. Mentorship works the same way.

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Mentoring today helps you to reach the success you deserve.

More and more businesses are beginning to realize the many benefits of establishing mentor and mentee relationships as a great method of career development, and indeed personal development in their employees. 71% of Fortune 500 companies[1] use some kind of mentorship system in their organisations.

On a personal level, having someone on your back who knows the challenges and pitfalls of a trade or business can help you reach a level of success that would otherwise be harder to achieve. There have been many articles and pieces[2] written about how mentoring can help women and minority employees reach the recognition and success they deserve that may have been otherwise harder out of reach for them.

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Both the mentor and the mentee can benefit from a strong mentor relationship.

It would be easy to think that only the one being mentored will be benefiting from the mentor/mentee relationship. Perhaps, to the more experienced mentor, having to show someone the ropes of a profession might even be a burden. However, with a strong mentor relationship both parties can benefit really well.

Most obviously, fulfilling the role of a mentor can foster great communication and leadership skills that can benefit the mentor long after they stop being someone’s mentor.[3] In this way it is in their best interest to be a good mentor.

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Here’re some hallmarks of a great mentorship.

So, having a great mentor is clearly a hugely beneficial experience. However how can these benefits be attained? What does a good mentorship actually look like?

  • A great mentor will be committed to their mentee, and likewise the mentee will be committed to their mentor.[4] Because of this, both parties will soon get to know the other’s strengths and weaknesses. With this your mentor will be able to push you in a direction that works best for you.
  • Someone who has been around for a while, has achieved success in your field, will invariably know people. People that would otherwise be out of reach to you if you didn’t have a mentor. That old saying “it’s all about who you know” can be pretty accurate. With a mentor, not only do you know someone worth knowing, you know someone who is working hard to make sure you achieve success.
  • A mentor will be able to give you perspective. Its easy to lose a sense of purpose and direction stuck in the old 9-5, the drudgery, the grind. A mentor will be able to show you not only how to get the best results from your current working patterns, but also, by merely being there, will show you where your current path may take you.

Be a great mentee if you want to get the most of your mentorship.

Even if having a mentor sounds like something you might be interested in, it can sometimes be hard to know how to best fulfill your end of the bargain, and what you can do to to get the most out of your mentor. Here are a few pointers to get you on the right track.

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  • Be open to criticism and advice, or, better still, seek out further advice and criticism from your mentor.[5] Without such information, there is little real use in having a mentor, and also improvement, and with it, advancement, is much harder to achieve.
  • Follow up on their advice. It goes without saying that they are your mentor because they have much more experience and knowledge of your field. As such, each piece of advice is a gift.
  • Consider other mentors.[6] Though in this article I have used the singular term “mentor”, it is not unheard of to have more than one. This both takes the pressure (and extra workload) off a single person. It will also give you access to a deeper pool of knowledge and experience (assuming mentors are interested in sharing with you).
  • Don’t pressure them, in particular work on their terms. Remember that they are doing you a service, though they are your mentor, they are almost certainly doing this as a volunteer.[7] If you start to become a drag, or get in the way of their work and their own advancement and goals, (it’s possible they are someone’s mentee too!) then you may soon find yourself without a mentor, or have one who doesn’t care much about you or your success. Both can be deadly.

Reach out to the potential mentors skilfully.

All the above is all well and good, but you want to know how to actually get a mentor. The reality of the matter is, it’s tricky. Firstly: You should consider someone in your business or field that you want to emulate, someone reachable.

Secondly: Do not, I repeat: do not ask them to be your mentor if they’ve never heard of you.[8] Unfortunately this is the hardest part, but it makes sense. If they don’t know you or are not on their radar at least. Then you’re just a stranger.

Thirdly: Find ways you can help them out, this could be something as simple as retweeting their blog a bunch of times, or it could be something as complicated as getting them new work or clients (if that applies). It’s always a great idea to network in whatever situation or business, so at the next company party or mixer, totally attend and see where things go.

Reference

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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

15 Best Leadership Books Every Leader Must Read To Achieve Success

15 Best Leadership Books Every Leader Must Read To Achieve Success

Reading is an essential life skill. It’s how we record our history and share stories. Sure, there are countless books jam-packed from cover to cover with valuable facts. But there are also limitless volumes containing invaluable insights on the human experience.

Generations of people have scribed their experiences and struggles, their emotions and confessions onto blank pages, thereby transforming them into rich resources. Given this truth, it’s disheartening to report that global literacy rates are in decline.[1] Individuals young and old all around the world are reading less, less absorbedly.

According to author John Coleman, this lack of literature extends into the business world and all the way up the corporate ladder.[2] In his experience, “business people seem to be reading less.” Which is bad news considering the fact that “broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders.”

Perhaps it’s because reading has been shown to improve communication,[3] emotional intelligence,[4] organizational effectiveness, and to reduce stress.[5] All of which are critical requirements for an effective leader.

Now that you’ve been sufficiently convinced of the importance of reading, you’re probably wondering what you should be reading. You might also be thinking that you don’t have the time. Well, the truth is that you do have the time:

“Reading must become as natural as eating and breathing to you.”

You don’t have to read 52 books in a year, but you do have to make time for more reading. And when you do, this list of the 15 best leadership books to read will inform and inspire you to become a great leader.

Lead Yourself

Before you can lead someone else, a group of people, or a company, you must be able to lead yourself. That means discipline, self-actualization, sense of purpose, and humility.

1. Meditations

by Marcus Aurelius

    Although Aurelius was writing for himself, the surviving text is a road map to living a better life. By removing the excess, Aurelius shows us all how to rise above distractions to maintain our principles. Rooted in Stoic philosophy, Meditations is practical advice for controlling your thoughts, emotions, and actions to remove stress from your life.

    Print | eBook

    2. Man’s Search for Meaning

    by Viktor Frankel

      This book recounts Viktor Frankel’s experience in Auschwitz, the Nazi prison camp, during the Holocaust. Through all the pain and suffering Frankel was able to maintain perspective and conclude that there “must be meaning in suffering.” He reminds us that the meaning of life is to define that meaning for ourselves through action.

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      Print | eBook | Audiobook

      3. The Alchemist

      by Paulo Coelho

        Life is a journey. Each one of us should be trying to follow our own personal legend (that is, what you have always wanted to accomplish). The tale of Santiago, a shepherd boy, reveals what happens when we pursue our own legend: “the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

        Print | eBook | Audiobook

        Defining Leadership

        After building your foundation from which to lead, it’s important to understand exactly what leadership is and how it’s applied. It’s also helpful to study other successful leaders and businesses.

        4. The Truth About Leadership

        by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

          There are some things that will always play a role in effective leadership. Trust, credibility, and ethics are among those things. Kouzes and Posner reveal 30 years of research that support these and other core principles.

          Print | eBook | Audiobook

          5. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t

          by Jim Collins

            Some companies succeed, but most fail. Jim Collins evaluated thousands of articles and interview transcripts to figure out why exactly that is. Then he packaged it all into this book to show you what traits you’ll need to build a great company.

            Print | eBook | Audiobook

            6. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

            by Steven R. Covey

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              Seven Habits is a timeless lesson in leadership and success. By changing your mindset to embrace an alternative perspective, Covey walks you through the self-mastery Paradigm Shift. This process is broken down into Independence, Interdependence, and Continual Improvement, resulting in meaningful and consistent growth.

              Print | eBook | Audiobook

              7. Delivering Happiness

              by Tony Hsieh

                As CEO of Zappo, Tony Hsieh built a massively successful business by doing what everyone else talks about: putting the customer first and hiring the right people. Serving customers and company culture were the main focus. As a result employees and customers were happy and satisfied. Hsieh was able to dismantle traditional corporate leadership and deliver happiness and loads of profit along the way

                Print | eBook

                8. The Innovator’s Dilemma

                by Clayton Christensen

                  Here Harvard professor and businessman Clayton Christensen lays out the path to “disruptive innovation.” This, as described by Christensen, requires rejecting the needs of the customer right now in favor of adopting new methods and technologies that will meet their needs in the future. Early adopters and innovators get ahead; all of the others fall behind.

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                  9. Tribes

                  by Seth Godin

                    Start by reading Tribes and then continue on reading everything Godin has written. From his blog to his books and everything in between, Godin is sharing a winning formula for stepping outside of the status quo to do meaningful work. It’s this kind of work that will inspire others to follow, help you get noticed, and leave a legacy long after you’re gone.

                    Print | eBook | Audiobook

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                    Communicate and Motivate

                    To lead you must inspire others to follow your example or orders. It helps if you’re able to attract, engage, and encourage employees, business partners, and potential clients to get on board with your plan or proposal.

                    10. Drive

                    by Daniel H. Pink

                      The ability to motivate is central to leadership. That’s what makes Pink’s book so valuable. Packed with the secrets of motivation, Pink suggests we move away from rewards and punishment, opting for meaningful work, mastery, and autonomy instead.

                      Print | eBook | Audiobook

                      11. How to Win Friends and Influence People

                      by Dale Carnegie

                        Everyone wants to feel important. In Win Friends Carnegie shows you how to use that in your favor to make people like you and win people over. It’s a book about how to communicate and interact with people in a meaningful way. It all comes down to showing interest in the people you interact with and the work that they are doing. If you make that connection you will have won a friend.

                        Print | eBook | Audiobook

                        12. Team of Rivals

                        by Doris Kearns Goodwin

                          If Abe Lincoln can unite his cabinet and the country around abolishing slavery amidst war, you can probably reconcile conflicting personalities in your company. Meshing people of divergent ideologies into a team or group is an admirable leadership trait. In Team of Rivals Kearns Goodwin recounts the story of how Lincoln surrounded himself with the best people, despite their differences. He was humble and unafraid to be challenged: two traits that will serve every leader.

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                          Keep Going

                          Sometimes things don’t go as planned. If and when that happens, you’ll have to pick yourself up and start all over again. Perseverance and resilience are mandatory.

                          13. Endurance

                          by Endurance

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                            In 1914, explorer Edward Shackleton undertook an expedition to the South Pole. Although the mission was a failure, the resulting story of survival in the ice-bound Antarctic seas serves as a guide post for leaders confronted with adversity.

                            Print | eBook | Audiobook

                            Be Real

                            No one can fake leadership. And, if they can, it won’t last long. Acknowledging fear and vulnerability are far more valuable leadership skills than being cold or shut-off.

                            14. Daring Greatly

                            by Brené Brown

                              Being vulnerable doesn’t have to be a weakness. Fear and shame shouldn’t prevent us from daring to do big things. Instead, Brown tells us that it’s most important to show up; to try and to fail. Because coming up short is better than never having tried at all.

                              Print | eBook | Audiobook

                              15. The War of Art

                              by Steve Pressfield

                                Anything you create is going to require one heck of a battle: that’s the war of art. Every single person in the world who has written a book, published an article, started a business, or made “art” has been scared out of their mind. Procrastination, fear, and self-doubt strike everyone. The only way to beat them is to make stuff and share it with the world.

                                Print | eBook | Audiobook

                                Featured photo credit: Quino Al via unsplash.com

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