There is only one reason to engage in mentoring: you want to make some sort of change.
4 Buckets of Change
Change comes in many shapes and sizes. You may want to develop or improve a skill, explore or grow your career, discover a new approach, or reinvent yourself altogether. Let's categorize all change into four buckets.
You want to make a change to become more:
- Work Effective - being great at your job today
- Job Ready - preparing for a great job tomorrow
- Leader Ready - being ready to lead now
- Network Ready - knowing who knows when you need it
Simplicity of Mentoring
Mentoring occurs when someone contributes to your change. We'll call this person a "Mentor" and you their "Protégé". The Mentor may offer a passing bit of advice based on their own change or they may hold your hand through your change. Both are effective, just with different levels of commitment.
Accelerate with Mentoring
Without a doubt you can successfully make a change all by yourself. But rest assured that someone else in your extended network has already experienced a similar change and learned lessons that will help you to accelerate through your change. And people like to share their experiences and lessons with others. So the choice then becomes: struggle through making a change the hard way or learn from the person who has been-there-done-that.
Finding a Been-There-Done-That Person
When you've identified the change you want to make and you are eager to have someone else contribute to your successful endeavor, you're ready to seek out the person who has been-there-done- that. To be effective, be intentional: "Share and Ask." Share your change, Ask for a connection.
- "I'm interested in improving my public speaking skills. Who do you know that could help me do that?"
- "I'm working on my career path. Who do you know that would be interested in sharing with me how they developed their fulfilling career path?"
- "I'm eager to lead the next project. Who do you know that is a great project leader that I could learn from?"
Making a Mentoring Request
In general, people are flattered when they are asked to share their wisdom to contribute to your success. When you identify someone to learn from, you want to make a simple mentoring request. Again, to be effective, be intentional: "Share, Identify, and Ask." Share your change, Identify their wisdom, Ask for specific mentoring.
- "I'm interested in improving my public speaking skills and you are a fabulous speaker. Could you observe me in my next speech on Friday and offer me some feedback based on your experience and success?"
- "I'm working on my career path and you have obviously created an interesting career path. Could we have coffee so I can ask you a few questions that will help me with my path?"
- "I'm eager to lead the next project and you are unquestionably a fantastic project leader. Would you be willing to share some advice with me over the next few weeks as I prepare"?
Being Effective at Mentoring
After they've said "yes," you, the "Protégé," now own the responsibility for success. You must be effective in your conversations and intentional about the outcome you want, lest you miss the opportunity for the Mentor to contribute to your success.
Regardless of the change you want to make and regardless of your mentoring request mentoring entails four essential elements to be effective and intentional: Expectations, Curiosity, Execution, and Appreciation.
- Expectations - set them
Be very clear about what outcome would make this relationship a success (ex: quick advice or 6- month hand holding) and what commitment you need from them (ex: one conversation over coffee or weekly 1-hour sessions for 6 months).
- Curiosity - without it, don't even get started
Go into each mentoring conversation curious about the Mentor's insights, knowledge, experiences, discoveries, lessons learned, and wealth of stories. Ask curiosity questions. Then ask the second-level question to dig deeper. "What was that like?" "How was that experience?" "What did you learn?"
There are 5 different kinds of mentoring conversations that you can use to leverage that curiosity into sage advice: Connecting, Navigating, Teaching, Advising, Observing.
- Execution - take action
Take some action and report back to your Mentor. Even if your mentoring request was for a quick-recommendation-over-the-water-cooler, people want to know that their recommendation made a difference. Take some action, and report back.
- Appreciation - give it generously and be specific
People want to feel appreciated and they want to know what specifically you appreciate. Thank them verbally, thank them in writing, and thank them by gushing about them to others. And in doing so be specific about what you appreciate. "Thank you for taking the time to share with me your career path." "Thank you for showing me a better way to solve this problem."
When you're ready to make a change - eminent or everyday - you can accelerate your success by engaging in mentoring conversations. But to be successful in mentoring, you must be intentional and effective in seeking out a Mentor, making a mentoring request, and engaging with a Mentor. Short of that, you'll only waste time and cause unnecessary frustration. Practice mentoring and being mentored with people in all areas of your life and get ready to learn, discover, develop, grow, and reinvent with vigor and zest!