A mentor is someone who has experienced success related to whatever endeavour you are undertaking. Then they will have reflected upon their experience – their successes and failures – in such a way that they have developed the wisdom that comes from perspective.
Such a mentor can ask great questions borne of their experience that will make you think more deeply about what you are doing. They may tell you how to do some things, but mostly they will ask questions and be a valuable set of experienced eyes helping you to avoid pitfalls and maximise your potential.
"The key to being a good mentor is to help people become more of who they already are – not to make them more like you," – Suze Orman
A mentor asks great questions.
A mentor helps you maintain a healthy perspective.
A mentor provides a safe place for you to be real.
It is difficult to be fully vulnerable with someone within your organisation. An experienced mentor has no authority or aspirations within your company so can provide a safe place for you to be open about your fears and struggles. They will help you think about you. Many business leaders can function well but are not emotionally healthy. A good mentor will get past any façade you put on for your team and help you with your inner challenges. Those things that play on your mind and disturb your sleep.
A mentor will help you grow your capacity.
You need to find a mentor who can see your potential. Someone who helps you be a better version of yourself. They will help you see your potential and believe in yourself. They are less emotionally involved in the business, and therefore less affected by the ups and downs. They will encourage you and help you to be better and release your potential.
A mentor keeps you accountable.
The best mentors are people who will challenge you to think deeply, make tough decisions, and have difficult conversations. They will help you be more confident that you are on the right track or have thought through the implications in difficult times. They will tell you when you are being a jerk, or when you are confusing a personality difference with a relationship problem. This level of accountability is hard to handle at times but is always a good thing for those in leadership.
5 benefits of working with a mentor?
Questions that make you think more deeply about what you are doing and what you really want from your business or career. Typically, when working hard you are focused on parts of your business. A mentor helps you see the whole; and they help you understand the wider business context of what you are doing. They help you think about it so you can better articulate your vision.
A mentor is a bit like a zoom lens on a camera. They will help you zoom out to see the big-picture view of your business dreams, goals and strategic plans; and they will assist with the close-up view of the problems and roadblocks that need specific attention as well. The power of the mentor is that they are not working in the business, so they are able to see both views to enable perspective and wisdom. The business leader is often too engaged with the operational details to maintain that clear view all the time.
Who has a mentor?
Almost every well-known name who has achieved business success credits a mentor (or several mentors). Think Richard Branson of Virgin, Michael Bloomberg (entrepreneur and 3 times mayor of NYC), Mary Barra (CEO of General Motors), Suze Orman (television host, author and financial advisor).
The more invested you are in the mentoring relationship the more likely you are to benefit from it. Peer mentors and advisors with whom you have a drink and chew over a few issues are useful. They can help you think and generate ideas.
However, the real benefits of a mentor come from an invested mentoring relationship where there is regular time and a fee paid that ensures the commitment is real and the process has strong integrity for both parties.