Mentorship is Time Travel. Your future is blurry? Ask a mentor to look into their past with 20/20 hindsight.
“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.”
– Abraham Lincoln
— The Good Men Project (@GoodMenProject) September 10, 2014
I have had incredible mentors in my life – advisors who have helped me to make career decisions, to envision life goals, and to avoid major catastrophes along the journey. Whenever I have a future in front of me that I am unclear about, I find a mentor. It’s that simple, I don’t even think about it, I just do it. To me, having a mentor is like looking into my blurry future with the advantage of someone else’s 20/20 hindsight. Mentorship is time travel.
Everybody at some point yearns to have a great mentor or mentee in their lives, whether it’s Virgil-Dante, Yoda-Luke, or Donaghy-Lemon who stirs the thought in your own personal hero’s journey.
Creating that mentorship can feel elusive and fraught with unknown pitfalls, so how do you earn a great mentorship relationship and get the most out of it?
I had a chance to speak with Kim Wise, CEO of Mentor Resources, mentoring guru (and one of the more aptly named people I’ve encountered). Her company and software stands as the infrastructure to match and support mentorship programs in Fortune 1000 corporations.
Dale: Why is mentorship so valuable in the first place?
Kim: “A mentor embodies everything a mentee is trying to learn. Having the right mentor is like having a personal private library about specific subject matter that you can call up. What is that worth?
What does a mentor get out of the arrangement?
“Mentorship is definitely a two-way street, our mentors learn as much as our mentees do. As a mentor, it’s like going back and talking to my former self from 20 years ago and being able to influence them with what I know now.
What is the difference in efficacy in your opinion between peer mentors and traditional elder mentors?
“An elder in our mind doesn’t necessarily mean older, it means more experienced. If you have really specific goals in your life, then you’re looking for someone who’s done it. Your elder mentor embodies a particular skill or way of life.
You have to ask yourself, ‘What is the body of information that you’re looking for?’ Level doesn’t really have anything to do with it.
Peer-to-peer is more about collaboration. Larger groups do better in peer-mentorship relationships, when we have a large population that needs to be brought up to speed together.
The Elder-Protégé model is for leadership development. How do you manage that pathway without tripping up?
What is the greatest pitfall people need to avoid in establishing mentorship relationships?
“It usually boils down to either a lack of follow-through, lack of commitment, or a lack of direction.
It depends on the country, but often people believe a mentor is supposed to just get them promoted. Assuming the elder will do all the work is stepping outside of their responsibility.
A lot of people go straight out and say, “I want you to be my mentor” without making a relationship first. Or there’s too much of a gap in experience to be able to share a frame of reference. Reach for a mentor a level or two above you, and not five.
And then the other thing is a lack of clearly-defined goals that you want to work on in your partnership. Mentors want to know what the person’s working toward. Mentors really don’t like it when you come in without having a plan to guide the mentor in letting them know how they can help.
Who calls who? Who guides the partnership? Mentors or Protégés?
“This is a really important point. You can look at it like a skill. The protégé is learning how to hold a boundary and run a relationship with a mentor. To expect a mentor to be calling you is naive. Mentee-driven is the way to go, set up rules of engagement… this many calls per month, etc.
Since most of us encounter mentors at work, how have organizations used mentorship in the past and is that changing due to the technology and scale of larger companies?
“The early model was a senior role model had the one mentor, and that was awesome for the two people in the partnership, but nobody else got the benefit of that relationship.
In the past, some people had great relationships, others didn’t… there was a lot of imbalance. There were never any rules for the game.
Mentoring needs to have a process when you work with more than 1000 people like we do and you want to create equal opportunity. So we went back and started building a process, training, and rules of the game so we could begin to replicate that success across the board, to give anyone in a company the right match. That meant we had to begin learning what really happens when people get together and find out what types of personalities work well together.
We now bring a matching methodology that has a 99% satisfaction rate. It’s never meant to replace what a human can do to find a great mentor; but it is definitely an enhancement.”
This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project