Getting Over the Fear of Being a Mentor

By David Maynard

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I bet you know someone who is very successful in a specific area but doesn’t think they are qualified to be a mentor. In some ways, being a mentor is like being a parent. You don’t have to be the best parent in the world; you just have to make an effort to be a good parent. Basically what I am getting at is that everyone has something to offer that someone else can benefit from.

I always like to use real life examples so let’s look at one here. I have a friend who has achieved a lot in her life that has come from humble beginnings. She put herself through school and earned her bachelors and later an M.B.A. She is also a homeowner. She did all this while being single. I have recommended to her that she should think about being a mentor and her reaction was “Who would want to be mentored by me?” Well, my response to that question is….quite a few people. There is no official roadmap to life, and if there is it would need constant revising because the steps would probably become obsolete in today’s environment. Navigating what you want and where you want to be is mostly trial and error and a little bit of luck thrown in. We must also keep in mind that life is a journey and that if we obtained and did everything we wanted easily there would be no journey.

We also have to be realistic about what we want. If it is success we need to clearly understand what is considered to be successful. If our image of success is Oprah Winfrey type achievement not everyone is going to reach that level. There a few factors that came into play for her including luck, being in the right place at the right time, and a supportive network that green lighted her show. It should be noted however, that Roger Ebert was instrumental in encouraging her to reach her level of success so in a sense he was sort of a mentor to her. Had he not done so, we would never know this remarkable woman who has touched so many lives across the television screen. Getting back on topic, in a previous post entitled “Why Mentors Need Mentors” I discussed how a person never really stops growing and evolving. Even though they may have reached a certain level of attainment, having a mentor is still beneficial at that particular level.

So keeping these things in mind, you have a lot to offer as a mentor, particularly to those who find it hard to obtain advice and direction. The other piece about being a mentor is to know when you have guided your mentoree as far as you can and at that point suggesting they move onto someone else that can take them beyond that. When you get to the point where you feel you are not adding anything valuable to your mentoree’s journey that’s probably the best time to step back, hopefully take on someone new and help them along the way.

Finding a Mentor That Is the Right Fit

By David Maynard

Not all mentors are created equal. Consider the relationship you have with that person similar to that of entering a marriage. This is typically a long –term relationship that requires commitment from both parties. Your success in meeting your goals as a mentoree is dependent on how in-sync you are with the person who is providing you with direction.

I once had this guy who I admired and utilized as a mentor in my journey of becoming an entrepreneur.  I figured that this individual had a lot of experience and knowledge and would help me get to where I wanted to be. What I found however is that the more I interacted with this person I realized that his approach to entrepreneurship was in contrast to my perception. As a beginning entrepreneur, the hardest obstacle is having enough money to fund your venture. The general wisdom is to try to be as lean as possible and manage costs in the early stages in order to grow. What I found with the individual whom I was looking to mentor me is that he would pay top dollar for services related to his business. I think that many of these discussions were based on the fact that he occupied high executive roles in organizations that were well funded so cutting costs were less of an issue. Not to say that this person’s approach was wrong, there are many entrepreneurs who are able to operate in this zone but for me I felt it would lead to a higher burn rate. I still keep in touch with this individual and swap information relative to our entrepreneurial goals, but I do not use him as a mentor in my journey.

One thing I should mention that should be obvious but is not and is assumed when we select a mentor is to verify that the individual has successfully accomplished the goal we are seeking to achieve.  There are people out there that like to inflate their skill-set and abilities beyond their proven capabilities and achievements. For instance, you wouldn’t want to be mentored by someone who appears to be financially secure but in actuality is living from check to check if your goal is financial stability. Having someone like that as a mentor is a sure fire bet that you will not reach your goals and objectives.

Personality types are also an important factor when selecting a mentor. I have an interest in the study of personality types such as introvert/extrovert, Amiable, Analytical, Expressive, and  Driver.  I am a Analytical type with Amiable as my secondary.  I tend to have a harder time tolerating Expressive and Driver personality types so a mentor who falls within those two ranges is probably not a good fit. It helps to know your personality type and what other types you work best with for a perfect fit.

In hindsight, a list of questions for the potential mentor with the objective of checking for compatibility would have been useful.  . Taking the time to put together the questions is worth its weight in spades and can save on disappointment down the road. You can even do an interview with potential candidates over a cup of coffee the same as if they were doing a job interview and ask them the questions you put together.  Ask questions like “Have you ever mentored before and if so, how did it go?;”’ What are your expectations for your mentoree?;””What resources can you offer your mentoree?;” etc.

Now that you have some ideas about how to find the right fit for a mentor, make a list of potential candidates to ask and get cracking!

Why Mentors Should Have Mentors

By David Maynard

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I was listening to a podcast channel I frequent and the host said something interesting that I never considered before.  The topic was about his podcast and the affiliated services he offers.  During the break down he mentioned how he does one – to –one mentoring and what he charges for that service.  That part of it was not unusual, but then he said right after about his own mentoring and how often he receives it.  I had a moment of epiphany right there and then….mentors needs mentors as well.  This is something that is very rarely discussed because typically when you think of a mentor you visualize someone who has achieved a certain level of success either personally or professionally. Why would the person at that level need a mentor?  The truth is that the mentoring process never stops. There is that saying “There is always room for improvement” and just because you are a mentor doesn’t mean that you are exempt from that process.

Sure you may have obtained a certain level of achievement but where do you go from there and how do you deal with the challenges that await you at that next level?  The techniques and strategies you used to get to where you are do not necessarily mean that they will work when you take on those new challenges.  For example, suppose you are someone who is a successful programmer and has now been offered the opportunity to move into a management level position.  Are you prepared for that change in dynamic and direction?  It’s quite different to go from managing yourself to managing others. This is where a mentor would make the difference.  A few years ago, the Section Chief of our division at work who I reported to directly left her position for a similar role in another agency.  During her goodbye celebration she thanked another woman whom was in a different department at a director’s level for being her mentor.  I was quite surprised to find out that this individual was her mentor even though I knew they had a close friendship because they would occasionally go out to lunch together. In fact, I never expected that my superior had a mentor given she had such a high level of knowledge, organizational skills, and professionalism.  In some ways I admired this person and unofficially viewed working under her as a mentorship.  As much as my superior had to offer, she understood that she to needed a mentor or perhaps utilized one for years which helped her climb the ladder to professional success.

Another added benefit of having your own mentor is that you get the opportunity to see how someone else approaches the mentoring process and compare and contrast it with your approach.  Trickling down techniques that you feel are effective to your own mentorees can enhance the service you provide them.  In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to discuss your role as a mentor with your mentor and obtain feedback about the approach you are currently using.  This is a valuable opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked and will pay dividends down the road to helping you become an effective mentor.

Starting to see the benefits yet? Take some time to figure out the path you want to follow from here and then find a mentor that will help you on that second part of your journey.

Don’t Procrastinate, Read This Now!

By Heidi Martin

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Why do we procrastinate when it comes to living our very best life? Procrastination, at its very root is about fear. Sure, there are several steps between the actual postponement of
important tasks and fear, but at its very origin, the dawdling that keeps you from your dreams is fear. It’s as simple and as plain as that. Procrastinators put off the important tasks in exchange for accomplishing the less important tasks, the easier tasks, or the tasks that are judged less harshly. We loiter around responsibilities because they cause anxiety, and the stem of anxiety is fear.

I am an Olympic athlete of delay, the sultan of stalling, the princess of postponement.
Essentially, I have made dallying into an art form. I’ve even developed several excuses that
are used in the justification of my wavering ways. “I work better under pressure” “Tomorrow
will be a better day for that” or “It’ll be more efficient to tackle that later” The little devil that
whispers in my ear and cajoles me into waiting first ten minutes, then an hour, then tomorrow seems to have leased a permanent space on my shoulder. Before I know it, I’m looking at the calendar and realizing that tomorrow never arrived and nearly a month has gone by without a moment of thought dedicated to the original goal. In the end, I’ve sacrificed valuable time and life, living an existence that is less than I’ve dreamed of and less than I deserve.

At times, I think its part of a perfectionist streak, a Type A symptom. “If I can’t do it
perfectly than I’ll wait until I can.” Other days, I think it is perhaps just outright revolt against
the system, authority, responsibility. “I don’t feel like doing it and no one can make me!”
Whatever the reason, the fact is, just because I didn’t do it, doesn’t mean it goes away (unless
your clock is up and you die.) It just means I avoided the decision to do it, which means in effect I decided not to do it. In the scheme of things, each day you can decide to do the it, not do the it, or wait until tomorrow where we relive the entire cycle again-oh, but this time you can add a hefty dose of guilt into the mix. Why do we do this to ourselves?

I’ve found that often it takes longer to think about, justify and wriggle out of the task than
it takes to actually make a little progress. If, for example I had actually started that exercise
program that I promised myself I would start every Monday for the last ten years, well I’d
be running marathons by now! Sound familiar? While a shakeup of your routine may be
uncomfortable for a brief period, in the end, even small steps will bring you closer to your goals.

Clearly, the energy to perform these tasks is at hand because other responsibilities consumed the allotted time. The vigor that should have been used toward achievement was wasted on mundane tasks, it was simply misguided. So now what do we do when we’ve realized that focus has been lost? I think Martin Luther King said it best “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Don’t procrastinate; just take that first step, and the next and the next. It will get easier, and more importantly it will get done!