Anyone can find a mentor, but will they be suitable for what you need right now? Stacey Ashley provides some tips.
A trusted business colleague of mine regularly talks about ‘The Right Mentor for Right Now’ and I have to agree. It is not as simple as choosing a mentor who has the relevant experience. If you want to find the right mentor, you need to select someone who can offer you what you need right now – which may very well be different to what you needed 12 months ago, or even in the next 12 months. So just how do you go about choosing the right mentor for right now? The first key step is actually figuring out what you are trying to achieve as this will help you define the criteria for the right mentor.
Try answering the following questions to assist you in getting clear on this:
- Are you looking for help in relation to specific aspects of your career, or your current or future role?
- Are you trying to take your career or leadership to the next level?
- Are you looking to develop your own strengths, skills and experience for the next five years?
- Or is it more about getting support for some specific challenges you are facing now – personally, or in your role or career?
- The next stage is to identify how you would like the actual mentoring relationship to work. This could include:
- Will it be formal or informal?
- How often do you want to meet and where?
- Do you anticipate paying for your mentor?
- What sort of person do you enjoy working with and are there any specific values that are important to you in a mentor?
- How do they approach the mentoring process and how comfortable are you with this approach?
- Finally, take some time to identify whether someone is the right mentor for you (and whether in fact you are ready for a mentor) by investigating the following:
- What is their career experience?
- What is their experience as a mentor?
- Have they done what you’re trying to do?
- What other factors matter to you?
- Are you ready to ‘get real’ with yourself’?
- Are you ready to be challenged and to be stretched outside your comfort zone?
- How open are you to considering suggestions and guidance from your mentor?
- Are you prepared to make changes to your role/career and/or yourself if that’s what’s needed to achieve what you are aiming to do?
As well as being mentored myself, I have been a mentor for over 20 years. In my experience, the following attributes are present in all great mentors:
- Listening skills – Sure, everyone can listen but true listening skills take focus and connection. Great mentors listen with all of themselves, not just their ears. They also should be fully present with you in the moment. The feeling of being listened to is one of the gifts that mentoring brings and it can be a powerful force in supporting you to think, decide and take action.
- Questioning skills – Great questioning from your mentor will broaden your thinking, help you analyse and reevaluate, challenge you to consider other options, and develop your understanding of yourself. Therefore, your mentor should be skilled in questioning techniques to unveil possibilities. They should also use their intuition to ask the right question at the right time.
- The ability to challenge you to stretch yourself and ask you the questions that you may not normally ask yourself! This will assist you in gaining clarity of what you are really capable of, and also challenge your thinking. Remember, mentoring should be about growth, taking you beyond what you do and who you are now and into the whom you can become zone.
- Experiences to share – Each mentor brings their own wealth of experiences and should be willing to share their lessons. Some of the most valuable experiences are where they may have made mistakes and what they learned from them.
- Encourage and support you – Mentoring is a partnership and both the mentor and the mentee have responsibilities. Part of the role of the mentor is to support and encourage you as they need to believe you in.
Gaining a mentor can be a life changing process but always ensure that you choose wisely. Mentoring is all about you so if the mentoring partnership isn’t working for you then take steps to address this rather than just carrying on. Remember as well, you can always select multiple mentors to assist you in different areas of your life or career.
About the author
Stacey Ashley is the Managing Director of Ashley Coaching & Consulting, who excel in the fields of leadership development and executive coaching. Stacey is passionate about leading and facilitating great change, enabling people to be their best and to become true leaders. She is also a Professional mBIT Certified Coach, Coach Trainer and mentor. To find out more about Stacey, please see http://www.ashleyconsulting.com.au/