Ten Tips to Have a Great Mentoring Relationship
By Denise Michaels, Author, “Testosterone Free Marketing”
People who are passionate about living an independent, financially free life often decide they want a mentor to provide insight and ideas to help them on their path. Maybe there’s someone in your industry you know, or, you just know of who could help you take your business to the next level. How can you get that person to share their wisdom and help you get on the right path? How can you rise above so they want to share and give you a little extra help?
I’ve been a mentor to people for years, but never more intensively than since I became an author, trainer, speaker and marketing mentor as my business. This article will help you know how women in business can approach a prospective mentor in a way that will make that person more positively pre-disposed to helping you succeed.
Read these ten tips and go find your mentor.
• Take an interest in the person as a human being. I have an Internet mentor whose wildly successful. After I ask him a question I always ask him about what’s going on in his life, share a joke or tell him something funny that’s happened. For example recently I wrote him and after asking I question I typed, “Tomorrow I’m speaking at a workshop, so right now I’m sitting in my desk at the hotel catching up on emails with hair dye on top of my head.” He wrote back that he laughed so hard he almost fell off his chair. You don’t have to tell your whole life story, but make yourself real. Make it light and fun.
• Don’t say, “I’d like to pick your brain.” My brain “done been picked dry” and I start feeling bored when I hear those words. I know the time I spend with that person will be nothing but an interrogation. Instead say, “I’d really value your opinion.” It’s gentler and I get the sense it’ll be a more pleasant conversation rather than an interrogation with harsh lights shining down. Besides mentors are like every other human being – they’re looking for win-win relationships, too.
• Don’t try to monopolize a lot of your mentor’s time. Especially at first. Connect in a way that’s quick and easy. Don’t invite them to dinner. That’s a two hour time commitment. If you’re at a seminar they probably already have meetings scheduled. If it’s at home, they probably want some “down-time” Offer to drive them to the airport or share a cab. Ask what they like in their coffee or tea. Bring it to ‘em and get 15 quality minutes.
• Be clear about what you’re doing and what you need. There is so much “murky thinking” in the world. I’m amazed at people who feel they must write five pages to express one idea. That means you don’t know what you’re talking about. Develop a clear elevator speech and mission statement. Think about one or two specific questions you need answered and think about your words and how to ask those questions clearly.
• Listen, listen, listen to what they say. Don’t think about all the reasons why you can’t. That’s part of the reason why you’re not where you want to be yet. Say something like, “I’m dealing with yada, yada, yada – how would you suggest I overcome those obstacles?”
• Don’t say, “I’m looking for a mentor.” It’s easy to deflect a statement like this with a smile and not make a commitment. Instead say, “Would it be okay with you if we connected by email or on the phone once in awhile to get your opinion? I’d really value that.” It would be hard to say “no” to a simple, clear request like that.
• Thank the person for their time. Don’t take well intentioned advice – especially when it’s offered free – without saying “thank you.” Tell them what you’re plan to do. When you take action, be sure to let them know. Always, always, always tell them when you take an action step. It’s so easy to follow-up with email and so gratifying for the person who’s mentoring with you.
• Many experienced people who avoid mentoring others do so because someone more novice will take their time and advice and never follow up. It feels like a one-way street. Over the years I’ve had people beg me for my time and experience and yet offer nothing in return. I’ve met a number of women over the years who’ve said, “Denise, but what do I possibly have to offer? This person is so much more successful than me.” I once had a business mentor, a highly successful millionaire, who met with me every 2-3 weeks to discuss my goals and I got his input and ideas on business strategy.
What did he get in return? He saw me as being successful in personal relationships, so he wanted my opinions, thoughts and insights on how he could be more successful in that aspect of his life. You never know what’s important to others. Never assume you have nothing of value to offer – you don’t know until you get to know someone.
• Reciprocate once in awhile. If you see an article you think they would enjoy – send it to them with a quick note. If you have a trade or a skill and can offer to help them out in some way – offer it. Don’t say, “How can I help you?” Then they have to figure it out. That’s effort. Say, “I’m really very good at _____. If you ever need _____ give me a call, I’ll be more than happy to help out any way I can.” Even if they never take you up on it, they will appreciate that you offered. Then, your relationship is one of equals.
• Make the link between cause and effect. Don’t put your mentor in a position where he/she has to figure it all out for you. You’re not a baby. The job of a mentor is not to take you by the hand every step of the way. Look in the dictionary under “mentor.” It’s to give you some guidance as you’re on your way. Your job is to make the link between what you’re told and how you’ll apply it to your life.
And one more tip as a bonus:
• Thank the person for their time. Don’t take well intentioned advice – especially when it’s offered free – without saying “thank you.” Tell them what you’re going to do and when you take action, be sure to let them know. Always, always, always tell them when you take an action step. It’s so easy to follow-up with email and so gratifying for the person who’s mentoring with you.
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