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Why Mentoring Matters: A Guide on a Stellar Example for Employees

Why Mentoring Matters: A Guide on a Stellar Example for Employees

Finding success in today’s competitive world means taking advantage of every opportunity available to you.

While there is a persistent narrative in our culture of the lone wolf or cowboy who plays by their own rules and still succeeds. The reality is that no one makes it to the top completely on their own.

Virtually all successful people have had a mentoring influence in their life, whether it was a teacher, parent or boss, someone served as a role model, coach or cheerleader pushing them out of their comfort zone to success.

But is mentoring a dying art? What do you look for in a mentor? How do you find one? And what can you expect from the mentoring process? We”ll answer all of these questions and more in this post.

A working definition of mentoring

For our purposes here, a mentor is someone who has wisdom. And what exactly is wisdom? It is the combination of knowledge and experience.

A mentor is generally someone who has been in a field for a while and is successful in what they do. Mentoring itself is defined as a relationship between a more experienced person (the mentor) who supports and encourages others (the mentee) in their business or career path.[1] Mentors generally act as a resource for the mentee without micro managing them.

    Like many people, I have had the benefit of various mentors throughout the years and they have proved invaluable to my growth and success. In fact, my first forays into internet marketing were because I had watched a friend of mine become very successful working from home on his computer. When I approached him about helping me learn the business, he agreed, but only if we set certain ground rules.

    While this was a much more formal arraignment than I was expecting, looking back I can see the value of his approach. Here are the rules we agreed upon:

    Meetings

    We were to meet every Wednesday for lunch, each meeting would last approximately one hour, and if one of us couldn’t make it we needed to give the other 24 hours notice. This made the mentoring relationship a priority.

    Just like anything else that was important to my businesses success, I had do commit to it and take it seriously.

    Now since that first mentoring relationship, I have had others with various people who lived far away from me, some even in other countries. In those cases we would meet by phone, direct message or video conference, but we always had a set time and a regular schedule.

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    Duration

    He insisted that our mentoring relationship have a cutoff date of three months. He explained that while he was happy to help, he was not interested in becoming a crutch for me every time I had a problem. Besides, I wasn’t able to pay him and as he explained “I have a life outside of work”.

    As it turned out, we have kept in touch over the years and exchange thoughts and ideas regularly, in fact it’s not uncommon for him to come to me for advice now. But having this three month time limit was important for a couple of reasons.

    First, it made me focus my attention on him as an asset. Knowing that this reservoir of information was going to dry up one day made me value his time more.

    As time wore on, I found myself carrying a small notebook with me so that I could jot down questions and ideas for our next meeting. This is a habit I carry on to this day, although my phone has replaced the notebook.

    The other thing it did was give him an out. This wasn’t something that I realized until I started mentoring others. Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur or business owner. Some people don’t take direction well or just aren’t organized enough to be their own boss.

    This can be very frustrating for the mentor, they put a significant amount of effort into the relationship and if they keep leading the horse to water without having them drink, being able to have a hard cutoff date makes mentoring these people bearable.

    Goals

    In our very first meeting, we set (and wrote down) goals for our relationship. I was quite frankly a little stymied when he ask me what my goals for our meeting were, but luckily for me he had done this before and was able to help out.

    We determined that the goals for this mentoring relationship would consist of the following:

    • Develop a website specifically for my online marketing activities.
    • Develop different marketing strategies for the products and services I offered.
    • Monitor and analyze the different marketing strategies using A/B testing to determine the most cost effective processes.
    • Come up with a long term (5 year) plan for the business.

    Now that we had our goals in mind, we went through and broke each of them down into smaller steps that could be put on our three month timeline.

    What is a great mentor like?

    Great mentors are like the north star, not a GPS.

    Man I love my GPS ! I plug in an address and get turn by turn directions to my destination. I haven’t been lost, even in a completely unfamiliar city in years. The newer ones will even reroute you to avoid traffic delays, construction or accidents.

    But back in the early days of navigation, the north star was an important navigation guide.

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    Using a fixed point in the sky, ship captains could navigate their way across vast oceans traveling from one continent to another.

    While today’s captains can go to and from very specific ports using a GPS that maps out an exact route. Using the north star for navigation was much less precise. You could get from one continent to another, but the seas, winds and storms would ensure that you never took the same route twice.

    A good mentor is like the north star, not a GPS. They will give you guidance, just not specific direction.

    Three signs of a great mentor

    How can you you recognize a great mentor? Here’re some crucial signs:

    1. They allow you to make mistakes.

    The term “Experience is the best teacher” is true. A mentoring relationship is not supposed to save you from all your mistakes, while getting lost in a storm is scary, it may just throw you off course enough that you land in a better place.

    2. They avoid becoming the hero.

    While this is definitely related to the first point, they need to allow you to fail and make your own mistakes. It’s more than just that. Mentoring can feed into the mentor’s ego.

    Being seen as, and thinking of themselves as the one with all of the answers can make them subconsciously want to live up to that expectation. A good mentor will recognize this and only offer the advise that they are qualified to give.

    3. They use questions, not answers.

    There’s an old saying:

    “The good Lord gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. You should listen twice as much as you talk.”

    In that respect, the mentoring process is a lot like therapy. A good therapist is there to help you work through issues and problems on your own. They give you tools, advice and suggestions, but you’re the one who has to do the hard work, they won’t do it for you.

    A good mentor does the same thing.

    Are you ready for a mentor?

    We’ve talked a lot about mentoring, mentors, what they do, how they do it, and what makes a good one. But mentoring is a two way street.

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    If you see the benefits of getting a mentor, it’s important to understand that as a mentee, you have obligations and responsibilities to the mentor as well. Always keep in mind that you are asking for someone to share their hard earned knowledge and experience with you, maybe for free and maybe (like I did) so that you can get into the same business as them and one day become a competitor.

    These are some serious things that you’ll want to consider before getting into a mentoring relationship:

    Are you coach-able?

    This can really be an issue for entrepreneurs, a lot of times we will have our own ideas and ways of doing things.

    Perhaps we have been successful in other businesses before and we have a track record of success. Recognize that the things that gave us previous success may not translate into success this time around.

    Starting at zero again can be a bitter pill to swallow. You must be able to set aside what you think you know and learn new and different ways to achieve success.

    Do you take advice or criticism well?

    No adult likes to be criticized or told what to do, but being a mature adult means that you can receive direction and criticism without taking it personally.

    Every high school football player realizes that the coach is yelling so that the team gets better, not because he doesn’t like you personally. Likewise, your mentor’s criticism is not directed at you, but rather to get you to your predetermined goals.

    Are you committed to the process?

    The length of the mentoring relationship can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. If you are not willing to commit the time and effort needed then please don’t even get started.

    By having someone to mentor you, they are committing their time and energy to helping you out. Nothing frustrates a good mentor more than someone who is disorganized, who misses appointments or who isn’t willing to put in the time and effort needed.

    Additionally, you need to have realistic expectations about the mentoring relationship. I have seen people approach potential mentors solely based on the mentor’s network or connections. The potential mentee sees the mentor as a conduit to get to the people who he thinks can really help his career. This is a big no no.

    First of all, it’s a dishonest way to start the mentoring relationship. Secondly, I have never seen it work, and it usually backfires.

    Mentors, like all of us, don’t like to be used for ulterior motives, and once your motives become clear it is not only the end of the mentoring relationship, but it usually puts the former mentee’s reputation in jeopardy.

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    So if your mentor does introduce you to their network, always be respectful and check with your mentor before initiating contact with someone they’ve introduced you to.

    Tips on getting a mentor

    A lot of people are more than happy to help out someone “new” in the business with advise or direction. But becoming a mentor is a much more involved process.

    Before asking someone to be a mentor, have something that you bring to the table. After all, a mentor is agreeing to take you under their wing so your attitude, reputation and success is a direct reflection on the mentor.

    Tip #1 – Go the extra mile

    In a working environment, potential mentors are always watching and evaluating the new people. They notice the ones who come in everyday exactly at 9 am and leave exactly at 5 pm. And they also notice the ones who come in early, stay late and don’t complain about doing tasks that no one else wants to do.

    So by putting in a little extra effort, you will become a much more attractive candidate for a mentor.

    Tip #2 – Treat everyone as a gatekeeper.

    A gatekeeper is a person who has access to an influential person. The obvious gatekeeper is the boss’s secretary or personal assistant. These are people you don’t want to piss off!

    The trickier part is you don’t know all of the relationships that gatekeeper has. So even though you may have a good relationship with the gatekeeper, you might have been rude or unprofessional to a co-worker who is friends with that boss’s assistant. You have just made your life harder than it needs to be.

    Tip # 3 – Ask!

    Once you have shown yourself to be committed, hard-working and valuable to the organization, you’ll need to be direct and ask for the mentoring relationship.

    Don’t expect mentors to seek you out. You’ll need to be the one to initiate the relationship.

    Conclusion

    Having a good mentor can have untold benefits for your career or business life. By connecting with a mentor, you’ll get the value of their experience and knowledge. But more importantly, a mentoring relationship will give you accountability, milestones to reach, and an accurate assessment of your skills.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Business Mentors: What Is Mentoring

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    David Carpenter

    Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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    Last Updated on November 24, 2020

    50 LinkedIn Influencers To Follow, No Matter Your Industry

    50 LinkedIn Influencers To Follow, No Matter Your Industry

    LinkedIn is an excellent platform to network with great people to help you in your career and businesses. However, with over 575 million people on the site, who should you follow? This list will steer you to the right people to follow, organized by categories of expertise.

    Job Search Experts

    You will likely have several jobs throughout the course of your career, and you will constantly need advice on new trends and strategies out there in the job market. Here are the LinkedIn experts who you should follow on these matters.

    1. Liz Ryan is the CEO and founder of Human Workplace. Her articles on job searching are filled with creative and colorful cartoons.

    2. Lou Adler is the author of The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired.

    3. Dr. Marla Gottschalk will help you make an impact in a new job.

    4. Hannah Morgan runs CareerSherpa.net, where she gives expert advice on job searching and how to be more visible online.

    5. Alison Doyle is the CEO and Founder of CareerToolBelt.com.

    Management Experts

    They say that people leave managers, not jobs. These experts in LinkedIn will help you become your employees’ dream manager.

    6. Jeff Weiner. How can we leave out the CEO of LinkedIn himself?

    7. Nozomi Morgan is an executive coach. She can help you transition from a boss to a true leader.

    8. Mickey Mikitani is the CEO of Rakuten. He constantly shares his expertise in managing a global player in e-commerce platforms.

    9. Andreas von der Heydt was the head of Amazon’s Kindle Content and now the Director of Talent Acquisition. He has extensive experience in management, branding, and marketing.

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    Productivity Experts

    By maximizing your productivity, you can win in all aspects of life. The following LinkedIn experts will help you win big in your career.

    10. Gretchen Rubin is a happiness coach and the bestselling author of the The Happiness Project.

    11. Carson Tate is the founder of Working Simply. She advises us to include play in our schedules.

    12. Greg Mckeown is an essentialist. Part of being an essentialist is saying no to many things so that we can focus on the things that matter.

    13. Brian de Haaff, CEO of Aha! Labs Inc. provides strategies on how to be productive and happy at work at the same time.

    Marketing Experts

    14. Sujan Patel is VP of Marketing at When I Work, an employee scheduling software. He is an expert in content marketing and he even shares his ideas on content marketing in 2020.

    15. Megan Berry is the Head of Product Development at Rebelmouse, a content marketing and AlwaysOn powerhouse.

    16. Sean Gardner will help you navigate the social media landscape. This includes how to use different platforms to help accelerate your career. He is also the bestselling author of The Road to Social Media Success.

    17. Christel Quek is an digital and marketing expert. She is the VP of South East Asia at Brandwatch. Their products help businesses utilize social media data to make better business decisions.

    18. Jeff Bullas is a digital marketing expert. His blog has over 4 million readers annually.

    19. Michael Stelzer is the CEO and Founder of social media powerhouse site, Social Media Examiner.

    20. If you’re looking for inbound and content marketing expertise, follow Dharmesh Shah, Founder and CTO of Hubspot.

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    21. David Edelman is a McKinsey partner and is at the helm of the Digital Marketing Strategy Practice Department.

    22. Dave Kerpen leads the social media software company Likeable Local. He is the author of Likeable Social Media: How to delight your customers.

    23. Clara Shih is the CEO of Hearsay Social and the author of The Facebook Era.

    24. Aaron Lee is Grand Master of Customer Delight at Post Planner. He is an excellent resource for everything social media.

    25. David Sable is the CEO of Y&R, one of the largest advertising firms in the world.

    26. Content marketing trumps traditional marketing these days, and who else better to lead you in this area than Joe Pulizzi, Founder of Content Marketing Institute.

    Personal Branding Experts

    Part of what we market in our personal career is our brand. When people hear your name, what kind of brand comes into their mind? What traits and qualities do they associate with you?

    Here are some personal branding experts from LinkedIn to improve your own brand.

    27. Dorie Clark is the author of Stand Out and Reinventing You. He can help you craft the professional image you’ve always wanted.

    28. Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding. If you’re a millennial, Dan is the guy to help you craft your personal brand.

    Other Notable Experts to Follow

    29. Lisa Gates is the expert to follow if you’re negotiating for higher salaries and promotions.

    30. If you’re a Baby Boomer, Marc Miller will help you navigate the continually changing landscape of the workplace.

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    31. To avoid getting your resumé moved to the “No” pile, read Paul Freiberger’s excellent advice.

    32. James Caan provides insightful ideas on careers in general. He is also a serial entrepreneur.

    33. Jeff Haden writes on various topics, such as leadership and management. He is the owner of Blackbird Media.

    34. If you’re looking for expert business advice on getting new customers and keeping them, follow Jay Baer.

    35. Suzanne Lucas, aka Evil HR Lady, is a great human resources specialist.

    36. If you need help in using Twitter to boost your career, Claire Diaz-Ortiz can guide you in the right direction.

    37. Ryan Holmes is the CEO of Hootsuite, a social media management tool.

    38. Customers are the lifeblood of a business and Colin Shaw focuses on revolutionizing this customer experience.

    39. Brian Solis often reflects on the future of business and how technology can disrupt our world.

    40. Nancy Lublin provides advice on more lighthearted topics, which are perfect after a long day’s work. She is the CEO behind Dosomething.org, a portal designed for social change; and the founder & CEO of Loris.ai and Crisis Text Line.

    41. Katya Andresen provides advice on how to manage your career. She was the CEO of Cricket Media and now responsible for the SVP Card Customer Experience at Capital One.

    42. Gallup has created a system to test what your strengths are and how to use them at work. Jim Clifton is the CEO of Gallup.

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    43. Adam Grant is a Wharton Professor and the author of Give and Take, which provides advice on why being helpful at work can accelerate your career.

    44. Hunter Walk is a partner at Homebrew Venture Capitalist Company and has specialty in product development and management.

    45. If you’re running a nonprofit organization, follow Beth Kanter for expert advice on this area.

    46. Emotional Intelligence is necessary to succeed in your career, and Daniel Goleman is your expert for that.

    47. Rita J. King connects science, technology and business.

    48. Tori Worthington Rose is a Creative Director at Mary Beth West Communications, LLC. She has extensive experience in sales and digital media.

    49. If you’re looking for some advice on how to use writing and personal content marketing to boost your career, follow Ann Handley.

    50. Tim Brown is the CEO at IDEO and shares his insights on Leadership and Creativity.

    These are just some of the key thought leaders and movers in various industries. They will provide you with constant inspiration, as well as the willpower to pursue the career that you’ve always wanted. Their stream of expert ideas in their respective fields will help you become well-equipped in your professional pursuits.

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