Save for my relationships, I would be of little value. Who I am is simply a reflection of those who sow in me. Believe in me before I believe in myself. And even after I believe in me, they nurture me. Oft times they prune me. Getting cut back hurts like hell, but enables growth. Beauty from ash. Sometimes they cover me so I can heal, safely. My formal mentors.
I began formal mentorships long before iPhones. With vision bigger than skills, I needed help. And I knew it. I had zero chance alone. I researched mentoring best practice, found one I liked, and began my journey. One-year contract with expiration date. Clear objectives with measures. Formal agendas. Monthly hour-long meetings. Focused. Every other year, I mentee and give back what I learned. Mentors include CEOs, senators, physicians, nurses, lawyers, geeks, pastors, and business people.
Today I count 11 former mentors with whom I can FaceTime. And I do. Big decisions. Crisis at work. Family challenges. Life! I have 11 people who love on me, know me deeply, and are vested in my success. I am an intricate tapestry of these giants. I am afraid of where I would be today without them — or where I will be tomorrow. They are interwoven in my DNA.
I teach mentoring seminars now and again, and only 3 percent of attendees have a formal mentor. I don’t know how the remaining 97 percent do it. I can’t imagine not having a mentor. It is a lifestyle. It is a fountain of wisdom that never runs dry. If you hope to differentiate yourself from the pack and experience exponential growth, grab a mentor.
One might think that as you grow in your career, you no longer need a mentor. Admitting your need for help is counter culture. A sign of weakness. Pride keeps us from reaching out. To the contrary, seeking wisdom from mentors is strength personified. I am desperate for it. The greater your authority, the greater your need for a formal mentor. Pride destroys potential.
Finding a formal mentor is not difficult. Be intellectually honest and consider your gaps. Ask yourself questions:
- What help do I need?
- Where would I like to grow?
- Who do I admire?
- Who can I commit to for one year?
Answer these questions and the mentor will reveal himself or herself. Then go and ask them, eyeball to eyeball. Explain that it is a limited, time-boxed engagement and that you will handle all details. All the mentee needs to give is one hour per month for one year. That’s it. I have never been turned down.
You want to be a better partner? Find a mentor. A better parent? Find a mentor. A better leader? Find a mentor. A better person? Yep, find a mentor. Then be one.
- Mentoring is a lifestyle, not a one and done, check-the-box arrangement.
- Formal mentoring ensures transparency and accountability.
- Have a written contract with measurable key results.
- Mix it up with a mentor who is younger and different than you.
- As others sow in you, sow back.
If there is interest, I will post my mentor contract. I will post the mentoring dashboard developed when I first became a CIO (example of objectives and key results). I will add my list of mentor wisdom learned that I still refer to today.
Thank you to Tim and Achilles Demetriou, MD — an accomplished surgeon, leader and inventor who served as my mentor in 2006 — for the gift of your time and wisdom. Because you invested in me and many others, your legacy continues.