Top Lessons in Mentoring

In this series, professionals thank those who helped them reach where they are today. Read the posts here, then write your own. Use #ThankYourMentor and @mention your mentor when sharing.

Over the course of my relatively short career I have been mentored by a host of people. Almost all have added value to the work I do, the way I learn and how I approach various situations. On reflection, I look back on the advice given and see how much I have progressed in such a short space of time. But there is still an underlying fear of lack of achievement. Or to put it accurately, what happens if I do not get to where I want to be? What happens if I do not achieve my ultimate career ambitions

To put it simply, my ultimate ambition is to lead a global corporation. Sights are currently set on my current employee, which being in my late twenties this vision is undoubtedly still well within reach. But I have come to learn a few fundamental points of how I am striving to achieving this which may be surprising to some. These fall into ‘Being Mentored’; ‘Becoming a Mentor’ and ‘Continuous Learning’ and ‘Reflection’

Being Mentored
Throughout my career I have worked with various mentors, all of which as noted have added value to my career in some form or other. These have ranged from one-time advisories, short-term advisories, long-term partnerships and personal relationships. In my youth I had a focus of ‘I must have a mentor and it must be one which blossoms into a partnership’.

To achieve this I undertook various approaches, mostly virtual, with senior HP leaders. But this did not really work. How could it? There was no existing relationship to base the partnership on so it was doomed to failure before it had even started. Having kind of fell into the current approach, I find the benefits being:

  • One-Time Advisories: Be realistic. As you build your career it will be unlikely that you get a virtual partnership with a CEO/CSO/COO of a Fortune 100 company. These though have potential to add huge amounts of value. Work with what you have and use any potential conversation as a flood of advice
  • Short-Term Advisories: The next-step up is those who for whatever reason may only be available for a short-time only. Pretty much the same as the above, the opportunity to draw on their experience over multiple sessions is a great advantage to have. Just because they may only be accessible for a short period, there is no reason why the relationship should not continue at a later date
  • Long-Term Partnerships: These mentor relationships are more of a mutually beneficial relationship. Skills may complement one another or they may extend to create an extensive partnership. There may or may not be a reason for the partnership (ie. a mutual career pathway)
  • Personal Relationships: These are more like the marriages, close-friends and families. They are your non-career focused associates. People who you can go to and speak about anything and everything whether work related or not. Essentially those who will simply sit and listen even if they don’t understand what you are talking about

Having a combination of these covers a whole range of potential topics, experiences and situations. Each level, whilst having the same potential to make an impact on your career, must make best use the time which the mentor can make available for Each level, whilst having the same potential to make an impact on your career, must make best use the time which the mentor can make available for you

Becoming a Mentor
Whilst mentors are incredibly valuable, there must be an understanding that your mentors are taking the time to essentially develop you into a better person, professional and leader than they are today. Are you in a position to relay that education and development? There are always cycles of younger, ambitious individuals who demonstrate potential who may be itching for a mentor who if you look back are likely in a the same positions as you was Time — X years ago.

Becoming a mentor yourself may well be allowing you to relay your own experiences and advice to the younger generation but you can also get a lot back. Think of it as drawing from the youth of today. An example being the embracing of banking technologies on Facebook. One of our older generation would likely never use Facebook as a Banking medium. One of our current generation may well consider using Facebook as a Banking medium. However, one of our younger generation has been brought up in an era of social media and so would be well-versed in using Facebook as a Banking medium. From being a mentor, you can gain insights, opinions, recommendations etc. on areas which may of actually alluded you. They offer the opportunity to challenge your thinking which may of seen you drift into a relative non-open mindset

Continuously Learning & Reflection
As with all mentor/mentee journeys, the fundamental element is always reflection. Without reflection, how do you know how you are progressing against your goals? Would you run a professional project without reviewing against the milestones and schedule? Having researched this continuous learning and reflection agenda extensively, the following have been found to be extremely good resources:

  • Lewis Howes: School of Greatness (Podcast): A podcast which focuses on personal lessons of the host, former athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur Lewis Howes and interviews with fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders
  • Tim Ferriss: The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast): A podcast which focuses on a varied view from industry leaders, entrepreneurs and lifestyle experts in both interview and one-on-one format
  • Belbin Team Roles: A question-based study which offers insights into the type of team role which you are best at and a series of supporting insights to help you learn and develop more effectively
  • Gallup Strength Finder: A question-based study which offers insights into your strengths and weaknesses also presenting recommended opportunities for improvement
  • Transcendental Meditation: Meditation is underestimated by many. Both Lewis Howes and Tim Ferriss are firm believers whilst many of their podcast interviewees highlight early career meditation as being the number 1 piece of advice to their 30 year old self
  • Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): The final continual learning focused medium is the MOOC course. You can study almost anything online! Most of it for free. Just do a Google search for MOOC and opt in to review the course module and you are away!

So in breaking with the traditional #ThankYourMentor posts of this type of personally thanking all of the mentors who have helped in shaping our development today, this post comes at a different angle. The fundamental points are that to enable an extensive focus on career development a wide variety of mentors, mentees, learning and reflection experiences are essential. So all-in-all, I would like to thank all who made it possible for me to realize the need for this approach and I hope that many others get to take positives away from this post

If there is anything you see that I have missed, please feel free to comment

Stephen Baines is a Management Consultant and MBA student currently working for Hewlett-Packard and studying at Manchester Business School. The views within this post are explicitly those of Stephen and have no representation of any organisation Stephen represents. If you wish to contact Stephen, please contact him via LinkedIn or his Twitter handle (@baines1986)

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