Do You Really Need Mentors?
One of the best ways to grow is to be mentored by someone who has traveled further than you in a particular area of life. Until five years ago, I had never had a mentor. No one had shared with me the value of having them or how to go about managing those relationships. I had always talked to people and asked for their advice, but I was not as intentional as I am now to seek and learn from the experience of others.
Friend, if you seek growth in different areas—spiritual life, finances, leadership, parenting, health, etc.—then meeting with people who excel in these areas can propel you forward. If you don’t have at least one mentor, I would like to challenge you today to consider looking for one. Here are a few tips to help you set mentoring in motion in your own growth journey.
7 Guidelines for Getting a Mentor
- Have one mentor per area of interest. Don’t ask someone to simply be your mentor. Ask them to be your mentor in a very specific area. You will want to find someone who excels at one area, and ask them to mentor you in that area of success. After years of trying, failing, and then succeeding, we all glean a few significant lessons along the way. And, that’s what you are seeking from a mentor. No one knows everything about everything. Seek the most meaningful lessons they have learned in the area of their strength or success. I usually will ask something like, “Would you consider mentoring me in the area of leadership?” Know the person’s strength, then ask them to help you specifically in that area.
- Establish a mentorship timeline and frequency. Don’t just ask someone if they would be willing to mentor you in the area of parenting, for instance. Ask them if they would be willing to mentor you in the area of parenting for 3 to 4 months. If they say yes, then you can propose to meet once a month, for example. Do not leave it open-ended. This is important because it may not work out on either end. Also, a person may give you everything they know in a few sessions. Others may excel in an area, but they don’t coach others well, or articulate what they’ve done to achieve their success. If in a few months you both feel it is beneficial, then you could ask to extend it. But I would not make it an indefinite commitment. You don’t want to find yourself in the uncomfortable situation having to tell someone that this is really not helping anymore, and asking to end it.
- Address the issue of compensation. Mentorship is traditionally understood as a service for no charge. That may be true for some, but may not for others. Ask potential mentors how much they would like to be compensated for their time, not if they would like to be compensated. Assume that they do. If they insist that you do not pay them, then don’t. If they tell you how much they would like to be paid, if you can afford it, then pay them. If not, I usually say something like, “Let me review my budget, and I will get back with you, if that’s okay.” I personally never negotiate with a potential mentor. If I cannot do it, after I truly think about it, I will let them know that it’s currently a bit outside of my budget.
- Be prepared for the session. Take about 30 minutes to an hour to think of questions you’d like to ask your mentor. This time varies for me depending on who I am meeting. Also, for some, I come prepared with typed questions. For others, I keep a running list of questions for them in my project management app, NOZBE.
- Show up to the sessions. I have a confession to make. Almost before every mentoring session I have scheduled, something inside of me says, “Postpone this one.” Like you, I work hard, have lots on my mind, and honestly just covet time for basic rest. But I have disciplined myself that if I set a mentoring session, I will go to it. And almost each time, I am so thankful that I did. Treat other people’s time with respect. When I am mentoring others and they start canceling, I know that they are not disciplined about their personal growth.
- Review what you learn. Just like when you hear an amazing sermon or motivational speech, or read a life-changing book, it is easy to feel inspired as you are receiving advice that really speaks to you. But most often, we then go about our lives and fail to ponder and apply what we’ve learned. This is so common and natural for us to do if we don’t have a system for review. In fact, if you don’t have a system like this in place, it is almost useless to be mentored. Take time daily or weekly to stop and think on what you are learning. For me, I have a Microsoft Word file called “Personal Growth” where I put all that I’ve learned that I would like to ponder on or apply. I put nuggets of truth, quotes, ideas, or challenges that I would like to either think about or apply. I add all of those to my file. Then I back up the file to Dropbox so I can access it on my phone to read when I am on the go.
- Always look for and seek mentors. This step is extremely important. I am always on the lookout for mentors. I have had patients who became mentors. I have approached speakers at conferences, obtained their business card and reached out to them later. I have even eyed one person to mentor me for over 2 years and worked hard to reach them. I have asked others to recommend someone. I have met people at events. With almost any person I meet, I ask myself, Could this person teach me something? Would they have my best interest in mind? Would they be willing to help me?”
I hope this has helped you to begin thinking about getting a mentor. I have written previous blogs about this matter as well. You can find them here:
In the next post, I will give you a list of all my mentors—no specific names, but I will describe each person and their expertise, how we met, how often we meet, etc.
If you don’t have mentor in your life now, I want to challenge you to have one by the end of the third quarter (by the end of September 2014).