Help Me. I have been asked to find a mentor!

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“I have been asked to find a mentor……help me”.

This question is often asked to me, by middle managers after the suggestion has been passed to them which usually occurs after a performance review. And they will often have no idea what to do…What to look for and what to expect.

There is a clear distinction here between and coach and a mentor.A coach becomes a trusted accountability partner to an executive, diving in with great questions to build action for the client and the coach supports and stretches with accountability. The skill set of the coach is in regards to the depth of questioning for the executive, not his industry specific knowledge or experience. A mentor on the other hand, should act as a guide sharing their industry specific knowledge and experience with the mentee. While certainly not a “tell and do” scenario, the mentor provides options and advice to the situations confronted by the executive.

A good coach will coach across multiple industries and businesses, while a mentor will usually only be found within the industry or specifics of their expertise.

There is an increasing trend in having internal coaches for managers in business and while they are obviously operating at a level of success, results must be impacted by the addition of the perceptions surrounding corporate politics and agendas. Bringing these perceptions into a coaching relationship impacts on the transparency needed to drive lasting goals and actions within the coaching relationship. But enough of that, back to the topic at hand.

“I have been asked to find a mentor”.

Sometimes this is much easier said than done. Many middle managers find themselves in this situation as their well-meaning (presumably) boss suggests this as a method to learn, grow and improve their results. It is also common that no suggestions for a mentor are given, as it is then a part of the development of the individual to source the mentor, and make full use of them.

But heaven forbid, if you choose the wrong one….

So what makes a great mentor?

You need to look at people who are successful in the field. Sustainable, high level results is the outcome you want from a mentor. Consistency of results is paramount. Most people can snag a great result through a short burst of focus, but to have a long history of success and high achievement is the first thing you look for in a mentor.


Once you have a list of high achievers, look to their track record of developing others. Have they been willing to invest in others as they have progressed? Have they built other great leaders or have they climbed the corporate ladder alone? You don’t want to be mentored by a “Lone Ranger”. You want to be mentored by the leader who gives with passion and realises their worth is measured not just in who they are, but in who they feed, develop and build. You want a willing and passionate mentor.

Delving further into the mentor mix you need, look at how they deal with people. Do they genuinely care about people? Do they have a heart or is it all about the result? Do they listen with empathy and build an individual rapport with their team? A good mentor knows their team as individuals and understands the possibilities this creates for their results.

You cannot motivate others if you cannot motivate yourself. A great mentor will be self-motivated and know their team indepth, to create the environment that motivates all. It is a skill to motivate others and the first step is self-awareness and then action to role model. Energy, enthusiasm are all driven from your self-motivation

A mentor needs to be confident in their own ability (without delusion or arrogance) and in their own team to handle any situation. An air of confidence is what you see in most senior executives, and this confidence lends itself to supporting others and providing advice. 

As we move through the list it is also beneficial for the mentor to be well-connected and able to introduce you to these connections. Connections are not the sole reason for success, but when well-connected people introduce your skill-set and business to others, it adds some credibility to you. Your performance then becomes the deal-maker or breaker.

The final attribute is the one of generosity. Some people cannot give themselves the significance on providing advice and support to others when often there is nothing for themselves to gain. Choose the ones that gain satisfaction by contributing to the career or the business of others.

In my experience, if you find a mentor with the following attributes, you will be well cared for in a mentoring relationship. You may find one in your company, or you may find someone in your networking association. Most of all start looking.

Most people I have found gain great satisfaction from mentoring someone, and they gain personally from just being asked. And often asking is the hardest thing for a middle manager to do. But if you don’t ask, the answer is no……so by asking and having a negative response, nothing changes. But asking provides a potential positive upside, and it’s an opportunity for you to create.

Do you have a mentor? How did you find them? What process did you take to ask?
Please share your experience.

Tony Curl

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Tony Curl

Tony Curl

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