So you’ve found someone who you think will mentor you… congratulations! Now what? I’ve had the privilege to mentor many individuals through the years. Based on my experience, here are eight suggestions on how to get the most of your mentor (and not spoil the relationship).
Regularly scheduled meetings probably will lead to disappointment. Mentors are busy — usually incredibly busy. Rarely do regularly scheduled meetings produce the fruit you think they will. While you might have a few productive meetings, over time the routine will kill the benefit. Don’t assume an “every other week,” one-hour meeting will be beneficial. If you feel yourself leaning toward a regularly scheduled meeting, consider whether you desire an accountability partner instead of a mentor — there’s a difference.
Quick check-ins are key. Thirty-minute meetings with targeted questions are crucial. When you schedule time with your mentor, be prepared. What are you going to ask? What are you expecting to get? Be prepared! Turn your phone off, don’t answer email, and be focused.
Write down what you hear. With pen and paper in hand, take notes. Write down what you hear. Clarify what you think your mentor is saying. Stay engaged. There are nuggets that will roll out while you are meeting and are easily lost unless you write them down. Don’t type them; write them.
Look for what to do and what NOT to do. Your mentor isn’t perfect, and their suggestions may not be the perfect fit in your situation. When your mentor gives you feedback, don’t take it as the perfect answer. Consider their opinion. You might want to ask, “What wouldn’t you do in this situation?” or other clarifying questions. A mentor will only answer to what they have experienced or learned, which may not work in your situation. Look for examples your mentor shares of times where they have failed in situations. If you’re mentor doesn’t share information about when and how they failed, then find another mentor.
Ask for honest feedback on what they notice about you. Be prepared to hear what your mentor honestly thinks about your situation. If there is hesitation, you won’t get the full fruit from the relationship. Be prepared for tough, honest and gut-wrenching stuff — and, in fact, ask for it.
Share what your future trajectory is. Most mentors want to help you on your path. If you don’t share what you are trying to achieve and where you are on your journey, you will just get buckshot advice. What are you planning in the next year? What do you think you’ll be called on to do in the next 3 years? Are you shooting for something that is currently out of reach, but would LOVE to have the opportunity to try? Share all of those things.
Follow your mentor’s advice, if it is good. There is nothing more frustrating than to give advice that is good and have someone not follow it, and then ask you again for advice.
Celebrate with your mentor. Your mentor is investing time in you. When you reach a milestone or achieve success, let them know. Your mentor wants to celebrate with you. They want to know that the time they invested actually helped you to achieve a milestone. Send them a thank you every now and again, or better yet, stop in and say, “Hey, that advice you gave me was really good and it helped out.”
[This piece was written by Steve Huffman, former CIO at Memorial Health System of South Bend and Beacon Health System, on his blog page. To view the original post, click here. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveHuffman_IN.]