January is winding to a close, and with it, National Mentoring Month. During the first month of the year, we humans are prone to seek a “fresh start” and renew commitments to our own growth. So, this is a great time to try and find a mentor who can help keep you accountable to your goals for the year. It’s also a really critical time to reach out to your current mentors and reconnect in the relationship.
The more work our team does in creating organizational mentoring capability, the more we encounter concerns about individual level mentoring relationships. The fact that human connection is powerful has been well-established. Leveraging that power for professional growth is really about building deep, authentic, sustainable, and mutually-beneficial relationships.
In my new book, Mentoring Programs That Work (available for pre-order here! Yay!), I go into depth about how to establish structure at an organizational level that supports impactful relationships. For example, it’s important not to rely solely on one-to-one junior to senior mentoring. A different structure, such as peer mentoring groups or mastermind groups, can create super-charged learning. Check out our DRIVE Mastermind Group for more info. However, there is a lot that can be done to accelerate learning at an individual level as well.
One of the most important factors in creating powerful growth is finding, and keeping, amazing mentors.
Finding a truly great mentor is challenging. Not every skilled professional you meet will also have the capability and capacity to mentor you. A “good person” or a master of their trade are not necessarily going to be able to help you grow. Here are a handful of factors to consider when reaching out to a potential mentor. Does he or she:
- have a legacy of developing other individuals?
- have a purposeful approach to their own development?
- explain complex concepts in a way that is easy to understand?
- demonstrate the ability to ask insightful questions?
- demonstrate the willingness to challenge you outside of your comfort zone?
- make connections between different concepts to provide a fresh perspective?
Even if you are able to find a mentor who engages, inspires, and challenges you, the work isn’t done. Creating momentum within your mentoring relationship is something that must be done with purpose. Setting monthly meetings just isn’t enough to make sure you will see progress, or that your mentor will feel that they are helping you with your growth. Below are a handful of ideas to help you gain momentum in your relationship:
- Block off time to work on your action items from the previous meeting.
- Send an email between meetings to check-in, share successes and failures
- Make time to Share Your Story! (more on this soon!)
- Ask for what you need (resources, connections, challenges, guidance, direction…)
- Thank your mentor – let them know how they impact you
- Offer to help when they need it
- Most of all, work on your own skills as a learner and mentor
Most relationships (including mentoring) have a natural ebb and flow. Great mentors make themselves available to you when you need it, and back off when you don’t. I’ve been fortunate to have a number of truly amazing mentors – some of those relationships are still in place ten years later! A mentoring relationship like that is truly a gift, and worth every ounce of effort to keep it strong.