Choosing a Mentor
A question that I’m asked time and time again is – if I had to go back and restart my entrepreneurial journey, what is the one thing I would do differently?
For me, the answer is easy. What I know now, that I didn’t back then, is the HUGE the value of having a mentor.
Having that someone to lean on for guidance and advice; someone who is in your corner; someone to bounce ideas off, or to counsel you when you are unsure or experiencing challenges.
I’m not talking about your friend down the pub – I’m referring to a successful person in a similar position to where you want to be, who has been there, done that, and has achieved their goals.
Unfortunately, whether it was from fear, ego, or just the lack of suitable individuals in my network who could play that role, I walked the entrepreneurial path alone and never had that “mentor” when starting out.
And inevitably the load I carried slowed my rate of progress.
Had I had someone to guide me along the way, it would have undoubtedly fast-tracked my success.
I know better now, from experience. And I couldn’t stress enough the importance of having a mentor in your life.
Working with a mentor can very often mean the difference between success and failure.
I believe it to be one of the key principles to success, and it’s a topic I pay close attention to in my latest book, The Success Rebellion.
The value of mentors
When you explore the lives of elite performers in the world of business: those who grace the front covers of entrepreneurial magazines and business publications, you begin to discover that most – if not all – of today’s top business moguls have someone operating in the capacity of a mentor to them, even when they are at the top of their game.
For leaders in the highest echelons of business – or in any vocation – it’s very rare that some form of mentoring hasn’t contributed to their success.
As well as having someone to talk to, whose experience you can learn from, there are many benefits to be gained from mentoring that wouldn’t normally be available without a mentor’s involvement.
● Access to funding sources
● High-level strategies
Are just a few of the advantages of finding a mentor prepared to spend time with you, welcoming you into their circle and sharing their knowledge and experience.
For a successful mentoring relationship, it is really important to find the right mentor for you and your needs.
It’s like developing any other relationship – be discerning and selective.
There’s no sense in throwing yourself at just anyone who has gained some level of fame or seems to have accumulated the trappings of success.
They need other qualities, knowledge skills and experience – and you need a good match to your personality, preferences and needs.
1. Choose a credible mentor
Find someone who has already reached or surpassed the level you want to reach.
It’s surprising how many people seek guidance from those who aren’t qualified to give it.
Now, when I say qualified, I don’t mean they’ve sat an exam and got certificates.
I mean they should have the appropriate industry knowledge, experience, insights or skills.
Some people portray themselves as something they’re not, so it is very important to do your due diligence.
Conduct research and ensure that these persons are credible and they have what it is that you’re after.
Check their social media, and any online presence, any media mentions or testimonials. Do they have the knowledge and insight you want? Will this person provide you with what you’re looking for?
Here’s an example:
Before I started mentoring and coaching, I attended an NLP practitioner certification, held by Richard Bandler the co-founder of NLP and whom I interviewed for the Success Rebellion podcast a few months back. Check it out the podcast below!
I realised that a large proportion of individuals in the room were business coaches.
Just from conversations I had with them, it was clear that many of them hadn’t had any experience in business.
Now, they might be operating with leaders within corporate organisations, but they weren’t entrepreneurs or leaders themselves, other than by creating their business consultancy.
Many people tell you they can add value to your business, and paint themselves as business consultants or mentors, but a large proportion of them have never started, built and grown a business.
Admittedly, coaching is different from mentoring – but I wouldn’t personally have anyone as my mentor who hadn’t been in a similar situation as me.
I’d want someone with similar experience to share their success pathway, wisdom and skills to add value to my journey.
For mentoring purposes, it’s very important that you seek out somebody who has done what it is that you’re trying to do, who has walked that path before you. Then, you know they have the skills, experience and knowledge that will give you what you need.
2. Check their alignment with your values
Values are the beliefs and things that are most important to you in life.
Does your mentor have similar values to you?
Do they have a similar perspective on the world?
Do they respect you and what you want to achieve?
Do they value helping people, and want to help you?
Do they stand for the same issues and represent the same things?
For example, if you’re someone who’s very conscious of social or environmental responsibility, it doesn’t make sense to align yourself with a mentor who is purely profit and revenue-driven.
There is always going to be conflict there: “To hell with the effect on poor people or the climate! Think of the profit!”
The strategies and insights they provide may sacrifice your values – and will only every lead to your unhappiness.
This is what we want to avoid!
So, it’s important that you find somebody who’s in alignment with who you are.
A mentor who shares or respects what is most important to you; who represents the same issues, has similar viewpoints and ethics – not just in business, but towards life.
It’s very important to ensure this that alignment exists, for a successful mentoring relationship.
3. Ensure you can add value to the relationship
Mentoring should be a mutually beneficial relationship.
Many mentors freely give their time from a sense of altruism – they just like helping people.
But if you want a thriving long-term arrangement, it needs to be a win-win situation, and the mentor should get as much out of the relationship as you do.
Find someone you can add value to – to them, their work or their life, in some form.
In order for it to be a long-term relationship, they have to see something in you that they recognise – something that can be nurtured.
What will they get out of working with you?
It can’t be all take from you – you have to offer something of value in return.
It could be things like:
Whether your prospective and take on things, challenge’s them to explore their motivation or decision-making.
You may be able to provide wider insight into an area of the industry they’re not so familiar with,
or it could just be your passion and enthusiasm that reinvigorates them, or the enjoyment of your company.
Together, you can be a dream team, driving one another further.
So, select someone whose energy is compatible, and be prepared to give as much as you get.
4. Choose inspirational and motivational
Ok, so you have found a credible mentor, they’ve achieved the success that you want to aspire to, your values are aligned, and you have a similar outlook on life BUT… Do they inspire you?
One crucial thing that is sometimes overlooked in mentoring relationships is whether or not the mentor inspires you!!
Does being in their company feel like you’ve just digested one of the classic book’s from my blog article 10 Books for Success in Business?
Does your prospective mentor push you to become more?
This is so, so important. You could find someone who is very successful, and they might tick many of the boxes, but you just might not necessarily find them very inspiring.
When they share their stories, or when you think of their journey to success, are you then inspired to be like them and achieve what they’ve done?
You have to find someone who’s going to challenge you and inspire you become more.
Where you are now and what you’ve achieved is the result of the person you’ve become.
So, in order to achieve more you have to become more and so your mentor has to awaken that desire within you.
You have to let go of all old perspectives, old behaviours, and be prepared to take on new ones.
Is the mentor able to bring that out in you, able to influence you in a manner that will help you, pushing you to transform and to adopt new ways of being?
Are they able to communicate effectively the importance of the knowledge they have, and give it in a way you’re able to receive it?
These are some of the important things to take into account when you’re choosing a mentor.
Use this article as a guide to help you to select a mentor that is right for you.
Someone who will recognise your ambitions, whose experience and knowledge complement your goals and who will help you and your business grow to the next level.