Where can you find a good mentor these days? I’ve had mentors come and go in my life. They’ve had different relationships with me in different ways. No two mentors were the same. I’ve come to see mentors and how I “obtain” one differently than I did years ago. There are different kinds of mentors.
This is the person that you contact and ask them to meet with you regularly. Perhaps, you are approached by a mentor who invites you to meet with them. Typically the relationship is established for you (the “mentee”) to learn something specific from your mentor. Your discussions can be topical, based upon a book you are both reading, or it can be free-formed.
I met with a formal mentor years ago. This man had been a college professor. He had traveled the world working with and counseling leaders. He had earned advanced degrees and had a successful marriage. I remember at our first meeting over lunch he was at a loss for words when I asked him to mentor me – he had never been asked to do this. I was shocked. Here was a wise man, a learned man, a successful man, and no one had ever asked him what I just did.
We met for months. I set the agenda. I just asked him about life – about what he has learned as a leader and a husband. It was rich time. It lasted a few months, but it was well worth the investment. I’m glad I asked him to mentor me.
You don’t meet with an informal mentor at a regular time or for specific reasons. In some instances, the mentor doesn’t live in the same city as you do. Perhaps their time is tight, and they are not always available.
I have a couple of informal mentors. One is a consultant that my company employed for our strategic planning session this past fall. He has worked in a similar field as I. He has held positions that I aspire to. We communicate solely by email. When I reach out to him, I make sure that my emails contain specific questions or comments so I show I value his time. I am patient when waiting for his response. His input has proven to be very valuable to me.
Another informal mentor is also a consultant. I also communicate with him via email, but this leader also makes time for me on the phone. I am honored by this because this man is incredibly busy. Many times, I am calling him or he is calling me while he is traveling between engagements. While we don’t talk long, he packs a lot of meat into the conversation. He is stretching me, challenging me, and encouraging me. I am reading his books and blog. He is helping me change.
I call these mentors “unaware” because they don’t know they are mentoring you. You can find these mentors everywhere.
Social Media – You can follow a person on Twitter and learn so much. Perhaps their Twitter feed points you to their blog where you’ll find more information and inspiration. Through their tweets, you’ll find others to follow. There is a lot of rich content on Twitter. Use it!
Follow a leader or a group of thinkers on Facebook and/or LinkedIn. I’ve seen that a lot of great content can be found as it gets posted there. Get involved in a good conversation and you’ll be able to connect with other leader-learners as well.
Blogs – You can find mentors on blogs. As I just pointed out, Twitter is a great place to discover blogs and their authors. I also use Flipboard – a wonderful iPad and smart phone app. Think of Flipboard as the smart phone/tablet version of The Kipplinger Letter. You can follow a wide variety of topics and discover new authors/bloggers/leaders and learn much as a result.
I’ll bet your industry has bloggers. Find them and follow them. Google topics that interest you. Chances are you’ll find a number of blogs that will fit the bill for you.
Read – books, articles, speeches, etc. Authors can teach you much. They will challenge your thinking. Reading is so much easier these days. Tablets make it simple to take a number of books with you wherever you go. On some tablets, you can check books out of your local library. With my Kindle app, I can read a book on my iPad Mini and pick up where I left off when I later open that book on my iPhone.
Listen – podcasts, videos, TED. There are so many free resources in the form of podcasts. Peruse your smart phone/tablet’s store and you’ll find them. Many times, these presenters are also authors which will point you to their written works.
These mentors are not aware that they are mentoring you, but don’t let that stop you! Take advantage of all of the resources available today.
How ever you find your mentor(s), just find them and use them to better yourself. Mentors are there to help you improve. They want their insights to make a difference. Become a living legacy of who they are and what they know.
And then in turn, in due time, you will become a mentor and keep the learning alive for the next generation of leaders.