15 Principles to Follow When Seeking a Mentor

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I’ve often wondered about the generic construct we call mentoring, nowadays. Mentoring seems to run 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 say, “Mentor me”.

When I was growing up, mentors were people who poured out their lives and sacrificed immense time & effort for me. I enjoyed a robust give and take relationship, not the one-sided cap-in-hand beggarly “mentorships” I see today. As a rule, I’m cautious about any mentoring that’s devoid of service and tutelage, but big on what can be derived from the mentor, with minimal effort. Then and now, I understood mentoring was incomplete, without character moulding. Many times, generational friendships were formed in the process.

I understand that everyone is not cut out to be a mentor, or to be mentored. But, some simple rules should apply:

1. Give your would-be mentor a good reason to adopt you, beyond kowtowing and 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 planning.

4. Never allow a mentor to 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 to him or her. They have competing priorities.

6. Never undervalue your mentor’s intellectual contributions. Clarity, wisdom and advice are priceless. That they didn’t give you money, doesn’t mean they haven’t invested in your business with their ideas.

7. Your mentor trades in knowledge. That’s how they got to where they are. Value it; whether it’s an email or conversation.

8. It may look like your mentor has it easy. Remember, they have come a very long way and have paid their dues.

9. When you ask for a favour, consider why your mentor should grant it. Never have a sense of entitlement.

10. Give your mentor a concrete reason to back you. When a mentor does a simplistic favour for you, you use up valuable equity that could have been deployed for a more important future request.

11. Don’t be the person who only calls when you need something. That’s why your mentor is avoiding you.

12. Stop hounding and harassing your mentor with problems. Grow up. He/she is not your saviour.

13. Appreciate your mentor (and their family). Be generous. Support their projects too.

14. Mentors focus on the big picture. 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.

In Nigeria, mentoring seems to run the whole gamut of business leverage, networking,… Click To Tweet


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