I recently got an email from a young lady asking if I’d mentor her. When I asked what did she want me to help her with she said “You’re successful and I thought you could teach me to be successful too.” Well, like you I get a number of requests and I’m always torn over what to do because the person asking rarely knows what a mentor is or should do and I really enjoy helping people learn and grow. After all that is why I’m a coach, eh?
So I thought I’d answer a few questions in an attempt to help others get the help and support they need to succeed.
- What is a mentor?
- What’s the difference between a mentor, sponsor and coach?
- What can I expect to happen if I work with a mentor?
- How to maximize my mentorship?
So what is a mentor?
First and foremost they are people. People help those they know, like and trust. You can count on a mentor to help you learn specific skills and knowledge. They have wisdom (experience + the experience to know what works) and are skilled at giving advice or demonstrating how they would handle a situation or think about solving a problem. Mentors share their wisdom because they believe in you. If you haven’t spent the time getting to know the person you want to mentor or if they don’t have a way to check you out then you have some work to do.
What’s the difference between a mentor, sponsor and coach?
Mentors are experts and are a great source of information and guidance. But they tend to share their point of view. Most mentors love telling you what to do and have an expectation that you’re going to do what they tell you to do.
Sponsors are people who advocate for your success. They open doors and introduce you to important contacts. At work, they will not only go to bat for you, but they have the power to make it happen. A sponsor will use their influence to help you get a promotion, salary increase, a favored assignment, or transfer to fabulous assignment.
Coaches are trained experts who help you learn more about yourself – strengths, weaknesses, habits that propel you towards success and inhibit you from taking action – by helping you reflect on how you think, clarify what you want and need and support you in accomplishing your goals.
What can I expect from my mentor?
Expect nothing if you aren’t committed to doing the work. You definitely get out of it what you put into it. Your attitude and how much work you put into it are the keys to success To maximize this relationship, focus on developing a mutually beneficial relationship.
How do I maximize my relationship with a mentor?
This is a simple answer but sometimes hard to do. Maximizing any relationship means you have to invest in the process. In other words, the question you ask, the ideas you bring to the table and your ability to overcome your fears, and hesitancy to act. Most mentoring relationship fail because the mentee expects the mentor to do all the work – come up with all the ideas, open doors or promote them without first doing the hard work self-awareness, setting goals to achieve and then investing the time and energy to act on the advice given.
Most of my mentors were really unknown to me as mentors. They were really good friends with whom I had a great relationship. They answered my calls for advice, support and guidance whenever I needed it. The best mentorships feel like the best friendships. I like to think both of us found our relationship rewarding. They learned from me and I certainly learned a lot from them.
Hmmm…I think I need a mentor—how about you?