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How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

Entrepreneurs are an eclectic bunch! Some have entrepreneurship thrust upon them by necessity, while others were born with a passion for it. But no matter how you get there, all entrepreneurs start out as novices when launching their first business.

Having a mentor at this stage in your career can mean the difference between success and failure over the long term. A 2012 survey found that entrepreneurs who received mentoring increasing their revenue by an average $47,000 a year.[1] And the American Psychological Association says that there are a host of benefits of mentorship including, career coaching, a larger and wider professional network and more job satisfaction for the entrepreneur.[2]

But how do you find a mentor, what should you look for and how do you ask someone to be a mentor? These are important questions to consider before you get into a mentoring relationship.

What is a Mentor?

Before we get into exactly how to find a mentor, it’s important to understand what a mentor is, as well as what a mentor is not.

A good working definition of a mentor for our purposes is

“Someone with experience in a field, occupation or business who is willing to share it with a less experienced person called a mentee”.

You may be reading this and thinking that this sounds a lot like a business coach. After all, a coach is someone who has experience and expertise in a field that is paid to share it with you. While the two roles are similar, there are a couple of important differences.

First of all, the mentoring relationship is rarely a paid one while hiring a coach or consultant is.

Secondly, hiring a business coach is a more formal relationship with a clearly defined project and a finite time frame. A mentor/mentee relationship is more informal and can last for years.

Finally, when you hire a coach, you can expect them to give you specific advice to solve a specific problem. A mentor acts more as a sounding board for problems, so that you can work them out yourself.

Benefits of a Mentor-Mentee Relationship

The obvious benefit of having a mentor/mentee relationship is the mentor’s experience in the field. For someone just starting out this is invaluable. All businesses have their unique quirks that are only known to the insiders.

For example, you may think that insurance companies make all their money off of the premiums that you pay. But did you know that the real money is made in the “float”?[3]

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The float is the time between when an insurance company gets your money and when they have to pay out your claim. The longer that period is, the more money is being made by the insurance company. And you wondered why they were so slow paying your claim!

It’s this kind of little known insider knowledge that makes having a mentor so valuable. Additionally, a mentor will offer objective advice, a unique perspective and encouragement.

But the biggest benefit of a mentoring relationship is experience. Experience is an asset just like any other asset albeit an expensive one to get. You can significantly cut your costs of acquiring experience with a good mentor.

How to Find a Mentor in 7 (Not So) Easy Steps

1. Prepare Yourself

As entrepreneurs, we are used to doing things by ourselves. We read articles and watch YouTube videos in order to tackle the unknown. And while this self motivation and problem solving strategy is what defines us, it’s a double edged sword.

A lot of times, we get tunnel vision about how things should work and how problems get solved. This rigidity can limit the options we see. It’s almost always better to give up on the idea of how things “should work” in theory and embrace the lessons of experience.

I learned this the hard way when I was designing a commission structure for my sales people. I had set it up so that they would get a percentage of each sale they made. It made sense to me. After all, the more they sold, the higher their commissions would be.

However, I soon discovered that while they were selling to the customers who were looking to buy, they weren’t going out of their way to make the sale happen.

I ended up talking about this with a friend who was a fellow business owner and he pointed out that I was relying exclusively on extrinsic motivation to generate sales, (commissions). We talked about ways to develop intrinsic motivation within the team as it’s a much better motivational technique than extrinsic motivation.

Long story short, not only did sales improve, but so did morale.

2. It’s About the Person More Than the Position

Ideally, you should find a mentor who is the idealized version of what you want to become. But there are some basic characteristics that you shouldn’t ignore when choosing a mentor.

The most important one is honesty and trustworthiness. It should go without saying, but I’ve seen too many people get burned because they were blinded by a person’s position instead of principles.

3. Make Yourself Attractive to Potential Mentors

People who are experts in their fields have a passion for it, and they are often on the lookout for people who share that passion. So your job is to show them that for you, it’s more than just a job or a way to make money. You share the same passion as they do.

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Unfortunately, this is not something that you can fake. The experts can spot a fake from the genuine article a mile away.

With that being said, you can make yourself stand out from the crowd by putting in extra effort, working late, contributing in meetings and taking on those jobs that others won’t. These are the things that mentors notice and even if you don’t share their passion for the work, putting in the extra effort will make you a more attractive candidate for mentorship.

4. Open Yourself up to All of the Possibilities

You can’t always pick out your own mentor. Sometimes, mentors pick you; be open to this possibility.

We see this a lot when people want mentors who are “too far up the food chain”. It’s common for young people just starting out to pick the CEO or President of the company to be a mentor. These people rarely have the time or inclination to mentor someone who may or may not be with the company in a year. Meanwhile, a manager or VP who has a vested interest in your success could be the perfect mentor fit (for now).

You also want to make sure that you are looking side to side for mentors, not just up. Sometimes, you can find a peer that is a rising star. Encourage and emulate that person. At the very least, you’ll develop some good networking opportunities down the road.

5. Choose Someone Close

While the advent of the internet has made long distance mentorship possible, it’s still not ideal. Your mentor should be someone who is fairly easy to reach and ideally someone close enough that you can have face to face meetings.

On a side note, whenever I meet with a mentor of mine, I alway pay. It doesn’t matter if it’s coffee or a meal out with their family, it’s my treat. Make sure your mentor-mentee relationship is a two way street.

6. Don’t Always Look for Someone like You

Good mentors come in all shapes and sizes. Our former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice put it this way:

“Search for role models you can look up to and people who take an interest in your career. But here’s an important warning: You don’t have to have mentors who look like you. Had I been waiting for a black, female Soviet specialist mentor, I would still be waiting. Most of my mentors have been old white men, because they were the ones who dominated my field.”

7. Make the Ask

Asking someone to be your mentor doesn’t have to be awkward, just ask your friend to hand them a note that says “Do you want to be my mentor? circle one. Yes, No, Maybe”. Okay that was a joke, but you will need to formalize the relationship so that expectations are clear.

The first thing you need to do is to be clear about what you are looking for in the mentor-mentee relationship. Only then should you make the ask. Then make sure your ask follows this formula:

  • Tell them what you admire about them.
  • Explain what your goals are for the mentoring process.
  • Suggest a logistical scenario.

Your conversation should go something like this,“Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, I was really impressed with how you handled the client/sale/business meeting (whatever). I would like to work on my skills in that area and was wondering if you’d be willing to mentor me? I don’t want to take up a lot of your time, but if we could do lunch once a week, maybe on Wednesday? Would you be open to that?”

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This is a direct, strait to the point conversation that gives the prospective mentor all the information they need to evaluate your request.

The Don’ts of a Mentor Relationship

So we’ve talked about what the mentor/mentee relationship is and even how you should go about getting a mentor. But there are some very specific don’ts that as a potential mentee, you should know about.

Don’t Ask Someone You’ve Never Had a Conversation With

Sure, the top person in your industry would probably be a great mentor, but unless you already have a relationship with them, it’s not going to work.

The mentor-mentee relationship is a personal one. This allows for the mentor to become vested in your success. You can not expect someone to have a vested interest in your success who doesn’t even know you.

Don’t Meet with Your Mentor If You’re Unprepared

A mentor’s time is valuable, don’t waste it with questions that you could and should figure out on your own.

A good rule of thumb is; “If you can Google it, then Google it, don’t ask your mentor.” Use the limited time you have with them wisely.

Don’t Just Take from a Mentor

As I stated earlier, whenever I meet with my mentors, I pay. This is an acknowledgement of the value the mentor brings to the relationship. Their knowledge and experience is worth more than any cup of Starbucks or family dinner that I pay for.

But even if you don’t or can’t pay, there is always something you can do to help out your mentor. The mentor-mentee relationship is a reciprocal one.

Don’t Make It Difficult to Meet

Make sure you are working around the mentor’s schedule and not yours. While this is a reciprocal relationship, the truth is, as the mentee, you’re getting most of the benefits from the relationship.

Besides, the more senior the mentor, the more demands they will have on their time.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Tough Questions

And by tough questions, I don’t mean “How do I design an employee benefits package?”

I mean “Where am I falling short?”, “What do I need to work on or improve?” or “What do you see as my biggest weakness?”

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Trust me, if you can ask these types of questions and be open to hearing the answers, it will help your business more than anything else.

Don’t Ignore Their Advice

One of the quickest ways to ruin a mentor-mentee relationship is to ask for advice and then ignore it. Now this doesn’t mean that you have to do everything that your mentor tells you to do. After all, it’s still your business or career. Just be selective about when and how you ask for advice.

For example, it’s better to say “I have a choice between scenario A and scenario B.” What do you think about the pros and cons of each?” rather than to say “I have a choice between scenario A and scenario B. Which one should I choose?”

In the first example, you’re using them as a sounding board for your decision, in the second example you are asking them to make a decision for your business.

When you ask them to make a decision for your business, out of all the possible outcomes, only one is positive. Your mentor makes the right decision for you. If the mentor makes the wrong decision, then you are unhappy. If the mentor makes the right decision and you don’t take their advice, the mentor is frustrated. If the mentor gives you the wrong advice and you ignore it, the value of the relationship is diminished.

The point here is to use the mentor’s knowledge and experience to guide you in your decisions, not to make the decisions for you.

Bottom Line

The value of a good mentor can not be overemphasized for the budding entrepreneur. The tricky part is knowing what to look for and how to find a mentor for your specific needs.

Mentors can be found almost anywhere, from friends and family to networking events, industry trade shows and even through social media with websites like LinkedIn. But wherever you find a mentor, make sure that it is someone who is trustworthy, with good communication skills who is willing to invest the time and effort involved in mentorship.

And always remember that the mentor/mentee relationship is a two way street so be sure to bring something of value to the mentor as well!

We hope you have enjoyed this article. If you did, please share it with friends and family on social media. It help us out and is greatly appreciated!

Featured photo credit: NESA by Makers via unsplash.com

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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 19, 2020

11 Organizational Skills That Every Smart Leader Needs

11 Organizational Skills That Every Smart Leader Needs

Failing to organize will often lead to chaos or, at the very least, an increase in stress levels. This occurs as you attempt to make sense of everything that surrounds you for the sake of making life easier. That’s why strong organizational skills are key to being a smart leader.

The need to have organizational abilities becomes even more important when you are a boss or manager. After all, people turn to you for inspiration, and it will hardly be inspiring if they see you freaking out.

What are organizational skills and how can you develop them? We’ll guide you through 11 key organizational skills that every leader needs to know. By the end, it will mean that you are in a better position to be a more effective leader.

1. Time Management

Poor time-management is at the root of so many issues within a company. As the leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure that things run like clockwork. This is only possible by having a firm understanding of what it is to be organized.

Failure in this area will lead to you being unable to stay on the task in front of you. Suddenly, your ability to juggle everything at once diminishes before you. It won’t take much before it all comes crashing down, resulting in you being viewed as rather unreliable.

Quick Tips for Time Management

    Be aware of the following: the tasks for completion, their deadlines, the amount of work required, and anything that cannot be delayed or avoided at any cost[1].

    Also, take a look at these 7 Effective Time Management Tips To Maximize Your Productivity.

    2. Planning

    Planning makes organizing easier, but we are often lacking when it comes to being able to plan ahead. Again, poor planning leads to disorganization and more pressure on you.

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    Remember that planning takes different forms, including dealing with time and how a project must proceed. However, a smart leader has to take things one step further to make a difference. You must also be aware of the plans of others and how they fit into your own approach if they are to make a difference.

    This becomes more important when dealing with a multi-disciplinary team where coordination can be problematic without adequate planning. A complete absence of planning will only ever lead to problems.

    3. Scheduling

    Even though this skill does overlap with those mentioned earlier, it’s still important enough to merit its own individual point. Having a schedule and keeping to it is known to be an effective tool for organizing your life.

    Scheduling indicates to others that you have an awareness about what they are doing. It also shows you have a firm grip on what is being done and that there are no issues with balancing a number of projects.

    Thanks to scheduling, your understanding of the time taken for different aspects becomes improved. This helps you to keep control of a project, as well as coping with problems thanks to an understanding of events.

    Scheduling time blocks is also a great technique to help you get organized: Get What Matters Done by Scheduling Time Blocks

    4. Resource Allocation

    It’s important to get the most out of your resources, and this too requires organization. Even knowing when to use those resources is important to prevent them becoming exhausted or used at incorrect times.

    Organizational skills, in this sense, means being acutely aware of the resources at hand and those you may call upon with a project. Your strength should also be in linking the correct resource to the right requirement to ensure it fits into their own abilities. Failure to do this means wasted resources, and this will not reflect well on you.

    To be certain of organization in this sense, you must first identify resources that may be relevant before beginning a new project. This prevents you from scrambling around and searching for help when you need it the most.

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    5. Delegation

    Delegation is an art form and one of the most important organizational skills, and not everyone has mastered it. An effective leader also understands its importance for a project to run smoothly.

    It’s impossible to handle each aspect of a project yourself, and that is where delegating tasks to team members can help. Being aware of who is best for a particular task prevents feelings of overwhelm, which will free you to oversee each aspect of the project.

    An organized leader will know their team and be aware of their strengths and weaknesses.[2] Being aware in advance means you will not stress when a problem arises, as you know who to call for help.

    Thanks to organization, your team will work more efficiently and complete each task with less stress on your shoulders.

    Take a look at this guide and learn how to delegate effectively: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

    6. Prioritizing

    Being capable of prioritizing tasks will make your life easier. Creating a to-do list and understanding which deadlines come first leads to better planning as well as less stress. As your experience builds, you become more confident at knowing which tasks are the most important.

    Disorganized individuals tend to cope in a haphazard way and deal with things as they arise. This leads to putting energy into the wrong areas, and the most important things fall by the wayside. Prioritization keeps you on track with the order in which you need to complete things.

    For this, you must be aware of the tasks at hand and the process for each one. Check deadlines and other pressing details in advance to allow you to be better organized.

    7. Collaboration

    Collaboration is one of the organizational skills that makes life easier all around. The only problem is that it does require organization on your part. An organized leader is aware of those individuals that may be the best person for a particular task. Not organizing leaves you in a position of searching for help when it should be plain sailing.

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    This is about more than mere delegation. Instead, the skill is with knowing in advance who you can call upon to make a project run as smooth as possible. This may also involve other leaders of various departments, so working in unison is key.

    With this skill, you must become aware of who you may need to collaborate with before the need arises. Do your research and know who to call upon at any point. This allows you to then cope with any problem in a cool and efficient manner.

    8. Setting Goals

    An organized individual will find it easier to set and achieve goals. A smart leader is able to show others that they can set short and long-term goals, work towards them, and ultimately achieve them. The only way this is done is through solid organizational skills.

    It will be impossible to reach a target if you are unaware of the path to follow. You must understand the actions and objectives, or you will never achieve anything. Organization skills also help you identify each step and any problems connected to it.

    Here, you must identify the target or goal at the earliest opportunity and then bring forward the other organizational skills that I have mentioned.

    9. Maintaining Efficiency

    Organization and efficiency go hand in hand. Efficiency leads to the need for planning as the smoother something runs, the fewer problems you encounter.

    Being efficient also allows you to know where you are in a project at any moment. This is due to you having organized things to such an extent that you are able to counteract problems before they occur. Remember that efficiency and your ability to identify issues work in unison. If you fail to be organized, then it is impossible for this to happen.

    To learn this skill, you must set aside time for each project and break it down into individual segments. Understand how each step must progress and who will be responsible for each part. Identify problems and how to resolve them to allow in such a way that everything can run like clockwork.

    Efficiency is a skill that develops over time, so continue working on it and how to improve problem areas to become a stronger leader.

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    10. Clear Communication

    A strong leader needs to be able to communicate clearly at all times.[3] With your organizational skills, you will find that this is easier to do.

    Thanks to these skills, you always know what is happening and can clarify any issues. You are also able to communicate exactly what you need simply because you are organized and know the status quo at that point. You will find it easier to get things started due to your ability to get things across clearly and concisely[4].

    Organizational skills: How to improve communication

      To have good communication, you have to be confident in your own abilities as a leader. If you use the different skills discussed above, you will notice a greater confidence in your voice, which then has a positive influence on the rest of the team.

      If you want to be more confident in your communication skills, check out this article: How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

      11. Self-Care

      Nothing mentioned above is possible if you are not organized in your own life, both professionally and personally. The ability to look after yourself is the glue that holds everything else together.

      You need to eat and sleep well, along with taking care of your general health. Organization in each aspect of your life is essential to ensure you have a healthy balance. Feeling under the weather, tired, stressed or anything else negative will have a profound impact on your abilities as a leader.

      Look at what people expect of you in each part of your life, and adopt the same strategies for each aspect. You can then expect a certain synergy to occur between the different areas, allowing them to work with a certain fluidity.

      This simple guide will be helpful for you to take better care of yourself: 13 Essential Self-Care Tips for Busy People

      The Bottom Line

      These 11 organizational skills are essential for any smart leader who wishes to be more organized in everything they do. By bettering yourself along these lines, it will lead to not only a greater sense of confidence in yourself, but also towards those that look to you for both guidance and inspiration.

      More Skills to Increase Productivity

      Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

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