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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 March 30, 2020

    What Is Creative Thinking and Why Is It Important?

    What Is Creative Thinking and Why Is It Important?

    Have you ever wondered why some can come up with amazing ideas while others can’t? The ability to connect the dots and see the larger picture all rest in a certain skill – creative thinking.

    Creative thinking is our ability to look at ideas presented or a scenario, and find new alternatives that solve the problem. Best of all this skill isn’t bound to the creative people like designers, musicians, or other artists. A lot of people can benefit from thinking this way from time to time. They can also receive a number of benefits on top of a wide variety of ideas that can spark change.

    What Is Creative Thinking?

    Defined by the Business Dictionary, creative thinking is:[1]

    A way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions (which may look unsettling at first). Creative thinking can be stimulated both by an unstructured process such as brainstorming, and by a structured process such as lateral thinking.

    Creativity is, therefore, our ability to form something new out of what’s presented. It’s our ability to think differently and provide new angles and perspectives to a solution.

    This can translate to a new solution that wasn’t there or even the realization that a problem doesn’t need a solution at the moment or at all.

    The Importance of Creative Thinking

    True that many people may not care so much about new solutions or angles but that’s the point. Our brains have a natural tendency to fall into certain ‘shortcuts’.

    Have you ever been in a situation where you hear or learn one piece of information and you use it all the time?

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    I bet you have, since we don’t need to relearn how to use a knife or a fork.

    That way of thinking does have its perks in those situations but has some drawbacks in other situations. This is especially true with problem-solving.

    Creative thinking and creative thinkers are needed in those situations because it pushes out of that linear way of thinking. It encourages us to look at other perspectives and even open up to the idea of new solutions.

    Creative thinking is also important for other reasons:

    Thinking creatively provides immense freedom.

    When we create, we have the opportunity to engage with the world without judging ourselves. It’s similar to what we felt when we were a child. Back then we didn’t care what people thought of us.

    Creative thinking provides self-awareness.

    We start to think with authenticity as we use our own thoughts, feelings and beliefs. This creates biases in our ideas, but we can learn to set those aside and deeply learn about ourselves.

    We become more confident in our ideas.

    Maybe right now, you don’t present ideas or your ideas get shut down. By tapping into creative thinking, we can build our confidence in our ideas and start to contribute to the group and our work at large.

    What Are the Creative Thinking Skills?

    Creative thinking isn’t barred to those who learn in creative fashions. Anyone can pick up creative thinking skills and use them to enrich their lives and those around them.

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    Because anyone can learn this, there is no one “right” method or a set of skills you absolutely need. Some of us may need to strengthen one area while others may need to do more. Regardless, here are some skills that can complement creative thinking.

    1. Perception & Empathy

    Feeling surprised that this is one of the creative thinking skills? Being perceptive and empathetic works hand in hand with creative thinking. Being able to read the mood of a meeting or a discussion you’re having with people can help immensely.

    This is key because there are times and places to share ideas. Specifically, you may find the best opportunities to share ideas when:

    • You’re facing a major problem or issue and can’t seem to find a way to proceed and solve it.
    • During times of change, when the future is more obscure than usual and you’re thinking of possibilities.
    • When there is a clear divide between what people think needs to happen. It’s especially needed when no compromises can happen without considerable effort.
    • When something new is needed and hasn’t been tried before.

    Empathy also helps with how an idea is presented. Maybe in your workgroup, people aren’t always receptive to your ideas. However, there is that one person who always has a plan and people support.

    Empathy is letting that person take “ownership” of that idea and be the voice behind the idea. In these sorts of scenarios, you build up more than empathy. It also builds the belief that your idea will prevail in the hands of someone else.

    2. Analytical

    Analytical skills help us in understanding many other situations outside of the social environment. Being able to read text or data and have a deeper understanding of what they mean will serve you in a variety of ways.

    I find that with creative thinking, the first step is being able to intake information and digest it in various ways. Being able to analyze information is often the first step in the creative thinking process.

    3. Open-Mindedness

    Once you’ve taken in the information, it’s important that you have an open mind. This means you need to set aside your biases or assumptions and encourage yourself to look at a problem in a new way.

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    Biases and assumptions are some of the mental barriers you’ll face. But looking at the other barriers, they often stem from that sort of thinking. A strict and “this is how it should be” way of thinking. Other examples of limitations are that you’re thinking of a problem too logically or that creative thinking is somehow breaking the rules.

    These are limiting because we know that to have an open mind is to succeed. Every successful entrepreneur in the world today had to break rules at some point in their lives. Consider Richard Branson or Elon Musk whose work revolutionized or created an entirely new industry. All because they didn’t back down to how things were. You can do the same thing within your own group in some fashion.

    4. Organized

    The last thing people associate creative thinkers is that they’re organized. While we think of great minds have messy rooms or desks, that’s not the case at all.

    Being organized plays a crucial role in creative thinking in that it allows you to better organize our ideas. Not only that, but it also helps to present it as well. When we present ideas, it’s similar to a speech. There ought to be a structure, a vision, and have it easy to follow and understand.

    Furthermore, if your idea is given the green light, you’ll need to form an action plan, set goals, and have specific deadlines. Being organized will keep you on your toes and prepared for almost anything.

    5. Communication

    Communication plays a vital role in all this as well. You can’t sell a group or an individual on an idea if you can’t communicate effectively. This applies to both written and verbal communication skills.

    This goes back to empathy a bit in that you need to understand the situation you’re in. This also means you need to be a good listener and being able to ask the right questions.

    6. Dissect Ideas

    The last skill I’ll offer is a challenging one but can pay off in so many ways. Sometimes creative thinking means taking two ideas and merging them.

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    This helps because in most situations ideas in their base form might not be able to satisfy the original goal or problem. That or maybe the idea is outright terrible but, there are some good pieces of information in it.

    The ability to look at ideas and be able to break them down and dissect them and merge with other ideas is a great skill to have. This could easily help solve disputes and help to find a middle ground.

    Some Examples of Creative Thinking

    The list of creative thinking examples is endless. In most situations, these examples will boost your creative thinking as well so I encourage you to try them out yourself:

    • Designing anything from a logo, to a simple webpage layout, to a poster and more
    • Creating a lesson plan for a group training course
    • Writing in a journal, a blog, or any social platforms
    • Creating a test or quiz from scratch just for fun
    • Brainstorming project ideas at work, or decor/renovation ideas at home
    • Finding procedures to improve the quality of a product or service
    • Suggesting solutions to improve a product or service

    Bottom Line

    The number of examples of creative thinking is endless but they are all challenging. This is a good thing as the world continues to change and grow. This pushes us to learn new skills, to think differently, and to start asking the more important questions. “Why?” and “Why not?”

    These are skills and abilities that can change the world and that anyone can adopt. So long as you have the patience to learn and develop yourself, you too can be a creative thinker!

    More Tips to Boost Your Creativity

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

    [1] Business Dictionary: Creative Thinking

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