You may need many mentors. When I started studying accounting, I discovered I was dyslexic with numbers. As a consequence I moved into computers and since then I have been in many different roles.
Some of those roles have included working in the helpdesk, training, implementation, sales, marketing, operations, project management and leadership roles - virtually everything except writing software.
But regardless of the role I'm in, before I start any mentor relationship, these are some critical things I focus on:
1) Am I clear on why I need these mentors?
We all have different learning styles and requirements. Are mentors the right way for me to learn and develop this skill? Mentoring is part of a toolkit of professional development.
2) Am I clear on what I need from these mentors?
Be very specific and understand how this is aligned to my broader plan. I need their mentorship to be actionable so we can measure success. I focus on skills and competencies first.
When I moved into sales, I needed to be great at software demonstrations and business cases. It was unlikely one person would be great in both.
- Demo mentors – One overseas who had won multiple global demo awards in my organisation and one locally who worked for another organisation that sold complimentary software whom I saw demo often.
- Business case mentor – Our in-house finance director would test my ROI and business case assumptions. I also used a former customer finance director to mentor me, not an obvious choice for sales skills and powerful as a result.
Being specific in what I needed from my mentors, I was clearer in what I needed and I got there faster than using more than only one. It's also important to remember that mentoring is two way. Your mentor will learn as much from you as you will from them. So be yourself, be honest and be open.
My top 5 mentoring tips when selecting a mentor
- Be clear in what you need – make it actionable. To do this you need to understand what parts of your business/career/team you are managing vs. leading so that you can give your mentor as many data points to begin mentoring you quickly (if you want to read up more on this, check out our recent post on leadership vs. management).
- Explore the possibility that more than one person can help.
- Be clear on your time commitment request of the mentor – how often will you meet and when will the mentoring conclude.
- Great mentors are inside and outside of your organisation - explore both.
- Use the opposite question. What is the opposite of a sales? A finance director as they need to approve the sale so they were an insightful mentor because they had a different perspective (this is how I found my business case mentor).
*This post was originally published on Linkedin.