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Published on August 21, 2018

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 January 14, 2019

    The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

    The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

    Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

    We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

    You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

    Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

    Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

    1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

    Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

    Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

    You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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    Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

    Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

    2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

    Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

    Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

    3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

    Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

    How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

    Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

    Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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    Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

    4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

    It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

    With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

    If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

    Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

    Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

    5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

    Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

    However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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    Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

    If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

    With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

    Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

    6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

    The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

    You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

    A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

    By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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    • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
    • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
    • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
    • Is this aligned with my passion?
    • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

    Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

    7. Be Prepared to Let Go

    It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

    Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

    If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

    When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

    Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

    We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

    The Bottom Line

    Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

    More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

    Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

    Reference

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