What are some of the best ways to find a mentor?
Tagged: #mentor #mentoring
- February 9, 2023 at 12:04 pm #332Andrea De La CerdaModerator
Sometimes I struggle to work through major decisions for my business or even identify priorities and could use someone competent to talk to, especially given I’m in a complicated sector that is changing rapidly.
I’d like to pair with someone who’s successful in my sector but also a good confidante as well as teacher, which is a challenging combination to find. What are some suggestions for how to source and approach a mentor?
- June 6, 2023 at 9:06 pm #454captreegerParticipant
As you may know, Andrea, there are a lot of mentors out there that really want to help entrepreneurs.
And there are a lot of ways to find them. I think Score (www.score.org) advertises themselves as the largest national network. Another that was referred to me is at mentoring.org. An internet search in your community might turn up some answers. And it seems that most entrepreneur-oriented organizations such as Endeavor (endeavor.org) and the Entrepreneurs Organization (eonetwork.org) have mentoring programs that will facilitate connections for you.
There are also a lot of business coaches, leadership coaches, system implementers, etc that are paid as consultants. Some are expensive and they’re not created equal. So be sure and get good references from people you trust before investing. But I have seen the really good ones help a number of companies. This may be something to consider if you can afford it.
But as in many cases, the best way to find one might be from your own network. One of my first and best mentors came through a college professors. And a few more came from that mentor, over time. My best mentor was referred from my brother-in-law’s brother.
When you meet a possible mentor, be clear in what you’re looking for. In your case, the right mentor that wants to be a good confidante as well as teacher will want that sort of relationship. And with that sort of mentor, your decisions will get easier. What makes decisions harder is when we don’t have certainty. But hopefully you can leave connections with your mentor with greater certainty and thus more empowerment in your decisions. And you may not feel as alone in building your business.
Some people seem intimidated to reach out to successful mentor candidates. But if you believe in what you’re doing and your only seeking wisdom, it can’t hurt to try. If someone is too busy to take on a mentee, that is understandable. Who knows what issues they may have in their own families, businesses, and lives? So don’t get discouraged or have hard feelings if someone says “no.” But if you find a few good candidates, hopefully one will work out. And that relationship may lead to others.
In fact, one of the problems that some entrepreneurs have is getting too many mentors! I think there is some risk in having too many people providing guidance. Even if they’re all right and none of their guidance is conflicting – which sometimes happens – it just gets hard to manage having too many. So the key will be to find the best fit: hopefully someone that will believe in you and support and guide you through decisions.
As noted, I like to approach mentors through a warm introduction from a mutual friend. Most successful people are busy – and it’s often hard to get on someone’s calendar for a meeting in their office or over lunch. But if you’re willing to go to them, and patient to wait a few weeks or more until they have an opening, you can often catch someone for breakfast. And breaking bread together can make a conversation less formal and more friendly, possibly breaking barriers.
I think you should do research on your mentor before meeting them and be prepared to clearly explain about yourself and your efforts and why you are asking for their wisdom. If you’re prepared for the conversation, have specific questions, and really listen and consider and use their advice, they may find it rewarding to feel that they’re making a difference in your efforts.
The best mentors often don’t give direct advice. After all, you have to live with the consequences of your decisions. So they just want to inform you better so that you can make your own decisions. Instead of saying “hire someone;” “fire someone;” or “sell your company,” they might say, “here’s what happened when we hired someone,” “when we fired someone, ” or “when we sold that company.” That way you can learn from their experience and guidance and make your own better-informed decisions.
I like to find mentors that will be honest with me – that will tell me what I need to hear, rather than what I want to hear. Some of the best ones deliver the hard messages in a loving way that helps a bit. And whenever a mentor – that I know has my best interest at heart – hurts my feelings, I assume they are right. In almost every case, in hindsight I realized that it hurt because they were right.
I really appreciate the objectivity of a great mentor. Sometimes we are emotionally engaged in our businesses – or so caught yo in the proverbial “trees” in front of us that we don’t “see the forest” – and can benefit as much from their objectivity as their wisdom and experience. Of course, there are things about my business that I see that they can’t. And occasionally when I disagree with the advice of a mentor, I find in hindsight that I was right. But with my best mentors in considerations where they had more experience and success, I have found that when I disagree with their guidance, they were right and I was wrong perhaps 80-90% of the time. And I was always better off for at least considering what they had to say.
There is plenty more to be said on this. But hopefully this is a good start. I’ll try to check back if you or anyone want more on this. Thanks for any consideration!
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