Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach and mentor many talented sales professionals, sales leaders, and other executives around the general subject of effective selling within their organizations. I provided them with support, contacts, insights, my experience, expertise, opinions and balanced and honest feedback. I never charged a fee for being a mentor, although there is a definite balance of value for a mentor/protégé relationship to work. In other words, there has to be something in it for the mentor. For that reason, I selected protégés very carefully.
From my perspective, coaching is more task oriented and process-driven as compared to mentoring, which is related to supporting more strategic changes in behavior, capabilities and attitudes.
Here are some considerations relating to mentoring:
1. Do you need a mentor?
The answer is probably yes. There are times that most of us just aren’t able to gain the wisdom and knowledge necessary to move to the next level in our jobs or careers. Some challenge may seem insurmountable, and without the ability to engineer and effectively execute a dramatic break-through by ourselves, we are stuck. An effective mentor can provide honest assessment, insight, the objective perspective and the tools required for ongoing success, especially during these challenging times.
2. What qualities should a mentor have?
For a relationship with a mentor to be effective for you the mentor must be willing to take the time to work with you, be a good communicator, have a basic understanding of psychology, and be knowledgeable about the subject(s) in which you seek guidance. They must be discreet, caring, and enthusiastic about helping people overcome challenges.
3. Where do you find a mentor?
Due to political risks, I always recommend that you recruit a mentor outside your company. It certainly shouldn’t be your current boss. With that in mind, consider some or all of the following: a former boss from another company, a known expert in the domain in which you are seeking knowledge, someone in your business (or even personal) network, or a recommendation from someone you respect in the area in which you are seeking improvement.
4. What are your responsibilities?
For a mentor/protégé relationship to work, you must be willing to work hard at improvement. That means defining and accepting your shortcomings and being open to changing or forming new habits through adopting new strategies and tactics. You must be willing to be responsible for executing what you and your mentor decide is the best course of action. You have to be honest, objective, appreciative, motivated and have the courage to change. Be certain you have the motivation and time to do what it takes to progress to that next level in each area of improvement you choose before you recruit your mentor.
5. What’s in it for the mentor?
What I get out of mentoring is the satisfaction of helping someone who needs and wants my assistance. In addition, I get to improve my own coaching, leadership, communication, and management skills. I often get new ideas and insights from my protégés. And my protégés provide me with an expansion of my business and professional network.
6. How should you proceed once you have recruited a mentor?
Devise a plan, together. Jointly assess your situation: where you feel you are presently; the issues or problems that may be limiting your professional growth and advancement; what has worked for you in the past and what has not. Next talk about your goal—what you want to achieve and by when. Then you and your mentor can discuss various options or strategies and related tasks/tactics to achieve those goals. If you have put appropriate metrics in place related to the goal, there will be no question at all when you have achieved it.
7. What should you not do?
There is one last point I feel obliged to make: Don’t confuse mentoring with picking someone’s brain. Experts tell me it’s insulting and has nothing whatsoever to do with a mutually beneficial professional mentor/protégé relationship.
Photo credit: Sandy Jones-Kaminski