A ‘mentor’ is a ‘wise and trusted counsellor or teacher; an influential senior sponsor or supporter’.
Here are 5 types of mentor most common in today’s marketplace:
- Mentors from afar – These are the people you relate with and learn from by reading books and listening to videos and podcasts. You may attend a conference to hear them live and possibly even meet them at some time. You can learn a lot from very gifted and successful people this way. This way you can have lots of fabulous mentors working for you in your life and business. My favourite mentor from afar is John Maxwell the Leadership guru. The trouble with this kind of mentor is that they are not there to assist you with your specific issue right now.
- Peer Mentors – This is someone who is on a similar journey to you; obviously not a competitor. Someone with whom you connect well. When you get together you come away inspired; have picked up a few ideas and pointers; and you feel good because you have also contributed to them. This kind of relationship can work if there is mutal respect and if the relationship is mutually beneficial. The trouble is that when uncertain situations arise you will quickly find the limits of your combined wisdom.
- Directive Mentors – This is someone with experience who helps you by telling you the next steps of how to do things. They are excellent for getting you moving when stuck and helping make things happen, especially through tough times. However, they do not necessarily help you to think. And they may not always help you towards the vision that is emerging from your heart and mind. The best way to work with this kind of mentor is to make a list of specific questions you want answered and keep asking until you have what you need.
- Reflective Mentors – This is someone who helps you think through who you are, what you are doing, and how you will do it. These kind of mentors ask great questions. They are patient. They listen to you and help you reflect on the consequences of decisions. They are good at teaching you how to think rather than what to think. They are good at helping you discover your vision, not a revamped version of what they have done somewhere in their life. The main challenge here is that sometimes you need a direct answer and they might be unwilling to give it, wanting you to believe in yourself enough to trust your instincts and go for it.
- Coach/Mentors – This is someone who has a role in keeping you accountable to your declared vision, values and goals. They will help you focus, deal with procrastination so you take action on decisions within a stated time frame. Their role is not to tell you what to do, but to hold you accountable to what you have said you will do. They will also help you when you hit roadblocks to work through whether it is you or your plan that needs to change. The issue here is that someone can be an excellent coach without necessarily having the experience associated with a mentor. I suggest you find a coach who has some experience related to your field of endeavour so you get the best of the coach/mentor mix.
General points about mentors:
- Bosses make poor mentors. People who have authority over you at work rarely make good mentors. You can observe, ask questions, and learn from your boss. You can even model yourself on them. However, it is very rare to find a boss that you can open up with about your weaknesses, fears and deepest questions without affecting your chances of promotion.
- Mentors must be good listeners as well as good talkers. (Mentors from afar excepted). Even a Directive Mentor needs to be interested in you, and willing to hear you and understand you, in order to benefit you.
- Mentoring relationships will be for a season. I suggest you have a clear agreement, usually written down. It is important to have clear criteria for measuring the benefits (ROI) of the relationship and your investment of time and energy. Regular (3 monthly) review points are valuable to assess how the relationship is working, and to refocus goals for the next 90 days.
- Learning to ask great questions is the key to maximising the wisdom and experience of a mentor.
- Be willing to invest in mentors. If you want to learn and grow it is smart to utilise the wisdom of successful people. It is better to learn from someone else’s mistakes and experience than make your own all over again.
- Mentors are more willing than you think. When younger I was always amazed how generous mentors were with their time. Now I am older, I always enjoy the experience of mentoring.
What is your experience of mentors? Either of being mentored or a mentor?