So what is the best reason to pick a mentor? To get help.
Knowingly or otherwise, many people who use a mentor, both inside or outside the corporation, (and this goes for coaches well) are not clear what they want from the mentor. On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with making choices to associate with people who can help your career politically. Just don’t use a mentor for that..
There are many better ways to get brownie points. However, if you’re going to use a mentor, be clear about their purpose in your life. If the coach is to help you , you need to: A ask for help; and B create a relationship with that person that makes help for you a safe and profitable experience for both you and your mentor. Here are some things to think about when using a coach or mentor:
I. Pick someone you like and maybe even admire. Then, don’t be negatively reactive when they offer help and suggestions.
II. From the get go with your coach or mentor, be clear with them about how they can help you. For example, you may want your mentor to help you avoid being turned down the next time for a specific promotion. Or you may need a coach to help you with your sales techniques to reach a certain financial goal. Set clear targets, both short term and longer term.
III. Figure out how to make it safe for your mentor to give you feedback. Don’t make it a toxic transaction for your coach to simply say, “You could have done this better.”
IV. Communicate specifically with your coach so they know as exactly as possible what you’re doing. Then tell them as specifically as possible how they can help you make things better. In the process of this, it’s always good to be equally specific about the measurable indicators for you of “doing better.” What does “better” look like?
V. Creating a safe place between you and your coach for feedback works both ways. You need to be able and comfortable to give your coach feedback about what works for you and what doesn’t. By letting your coach or mentor know what feedback was helpful or not they too learn how to better help you.
Most successful people, regardless of their arena of success and expertise, be it commerce, finance, recreation or relationship, have been willing to ask for help from a mentor or coach somewhere along their way. The other thing that’s equally true of successful people is that they have assumed as much responsibility for making the coaching process work as has their coach.
Good mentors don’t take on their mentees for brownie points. Neither should you engage a coach for the wrong reasons.