Get Mentored-Get Promoted
We often hear of mentors in all kinds of settings. Having a well-placed mentor in your life can really be a great thing. It not only makes you feel great having a supportive person in your life, it can also enable great things for your future.
What is a mentor and why do you need one professionally? To start with the basics, you can have a mentor and be a mentor. Specifically, I’m writing about a mentor for your professional growth. A mentor is a person that acts as a coach, guide, counselor, teacher, and advisor. In the business setting, a mentor could be someone to provide you with input that will assist your professional growth. Obviously, a manager could perform in the same role to a degree, but the roles are different. A mentor doesn’t direct your work assignments and is an objective third party. A well-placed mentor can be a superior strategic move if you think it through and utilize the resource appropriately.Here are some tips and guidelines for establishing a mentor.
Select a person who is a level or two above where you are right now. You want to identify a person who has had a successful track record with your company and is on an upward growth path. This person should be well thought of up and down the organization. This person should be thought of as someone that has the next promotion aced or is positioned to take over the next upward management position. Securing the right mentor in this way enables you to see what kind of successful behavior they have that you can emulate. You should be looking for a couple of “Hallmark” traits that you can adopt without looking like a mimic. You’re looking for things like their ability to collaborate or magically see things around the next corner. People that do well in the organization usually achieve results, and additionally possess specific traits of how they function that work well within the group.
Results and accomplishments aren’t enough. While you and your potential mentor will be ahead of the pack if you can obtain great results, results alone aren’t enough for high-level growth. Your mentor has to demonstrate that they can play well with the big dogs and it must be obvious that the big dogs generally respect this person. You should see signs of this person being included in higher level meetings and interaction on a periodic basis with the higher brass. These are indicators that they possess the “total package”.
Don’t pick someone that may be a built-in a competitor. If both of you do pretty much the same work, this person could view you as a potential threat to their growth. You need to find someone close enough to your area of work that they genuinely know the work you do without the potential for competition. I have seen senior people mentor junior people in the same exact area so it can work; however, you should think through how the other person is going to view you and the future impact on them.
Select a person that has many of the same values and whom you respect. If you are unable to find a person above you that you think much of, you may need to rethink your growth strategy with your current company. It could be that the company culture doesn’t honor the kind of person you are. However, if you can find someone that you think well of and demonstrates values that you also find important, that person will be a good candidate. You will find you can work well with them and most likely you will have a mutual appeal to each other. Since a mentor is most likely going to give you advice and guidance, it needs to come from someone you will listen to. It will also be easier for you to adapt your behavior if is already closer to who you are authentically.
Be clear about what you want. When you approach your potential mentor to request a mentoring relationship, you need to be clear about what you want from the relationship. If you are fairly new to the organization, you may want to not only understand players and positions but who the alpha dogs are and the informal decision process. You may have observed things they do well that you want to learn. Consider opening the relationship by asking for ongoing feedback of your performance and how you are viewed in the organization. Feedback is a gift, but often people aren’t comfortable giving it if the feedback won’t be well received or is perceived to be not wanted. You need to let them know that you want feedback and will take the information seriously without getting defensive or taking offense. Whatever it is you are seeking in terms of your growth that is how you want to frame the relationship. Once you have established the relationship it can evolve to include additional elements for growth.
Be sensitive to their time. Most likely this person is going to have a full plate already so your request for mentoring will most likely be an additional time drain. To keep the role from being overwhelming you need to be ready to offer up some structures that will be helpful without much time consumption. If they are willing to take on this role, you could meet monthly for an hour but that your primary input from them could come in the form of emailing and impromptu hallway “sound bites”. Since you are the one seeking the relationship, you need to be flexible about the logistics.
How the relationship can unfold. The potential for how the relationship could unfold has no limits. Minimally, you can expect to have a well-developed relationship for life that you can tap on an ongoing basis. Being a mentor to someone, particularly if it is solicited, is extremely flattering. It’s hard to resist liking someone that has high regard for you. It could turn into a fantastic friendship based on mutual respect. I have also seen mentors become the key catalyst to promotions for their mentees as they are often positioned to provide input within the organization. These people often become your advocate simply because they know you so well, have witnessed your growth and are invested in you. They may also want to hire and promote you by virtue of this level of insight into your performance. Of course, you never know in advance how the course of the relationship will go; it almost always will nurture both people in a very positive way.
If you’re ready for some upward career growth it may be time to put a mentor in your career life. It will be a worthwhile investment that could pay dividends for years to come.
Brought to you by Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – dedicated to unleash your professional potential.