I’ve often wondered at the generic watered down construct we call mentoring, nowadays. Mentoring now runs the entire gamut of business leverage, networking, godfatherism, emotional support and even spiritual coaching. It’s gotten to the point where I’m not sure what I’m being asked to do when people ask me to “mentor them”.
To be fair, I’ve had two mentors who I recall poured their lives out, sacrificed immense time & effort and literally became surrogate dads to me. I enjoyed robust give & take relationships, not the one-sided cap-in-hand beggarly “mentorships” I see today. As a rule., I’m cautious of mentoring that’s devoid of service & tutelage but big on what can be derived from the mentor with minimal effort. Then & now I understood mentoring was incomplete without tutelage & character moulding. At times generational friendships were formed in the process.
I surmise that everyone isn’t cut out to be a mentor while some quite frankly do not inspire a desire to be mentored. But, whichever kind of relationship you choose to forge with someone you look up to, simple rules should apply:
1. Give your would-be mentor a good reason to adopt you beyond the kowtowing & flattery
2. State what you’ve already done on your own, then ask for what you need to progress it in very clear terms. There are few things as wasteful as gaining an opportunity to make a request, only for it to be unintelligible & non-specific
3. Never show up late for a meeting with a mentor. It shows lack of good breeding and organisational ability
4. Never allow a mentor pay for a business lunch. It is a sign of a greedy spirit and ungrateful soul
5. Schedule your requests to your mentor in such a way that you don’t transfer your time pressure. He/she has competing priorities
6. Never undervalue your mentor’s intellectual contributions. Clarity, wisdom & advice are priceless
7. Your mentor trades in knowledge. That’s how he/she got to where he/she is. Value it; whether it’s an email or conversation
8. It may look easy; may seem there’s a lot more from where his/her contributions came from; but it takes A LOT for it to appear that way
9. When you ask for a favour, consider why your mentor should grant it. Having more than enough, familiarity or charity are not valid answers
10. Give your mentor a good reason to back you because when a mentor does a favour for a flimsy reason, you use up valuable equity that could’ve been used for a more important future request
11. Don’t be the person who only calls when you need something. That’s why your mentor avoids you
12. Stop hounding and harassing your mentor with every problem. Grow up. He/she is not a saviour
13. Appreciate your mentor (and his/her family). Don’t assume they have it all. Be generous. Support their projects too
14. Mentors think in big pictures. Don’t expect them to advise on the minutiae of execution too!
15. In times of trouble, mentors need loyalty. Even if you don’t approve of their actions, the least you can do is to not take sides against them in public. Be loyal
Do all these things and you should hopefully be worthy of great mentoring. I wish you success.