- Wise Words -
Choosing a Mentor
by ilene rapkin
Do we really need another article on mentoring?
I think so because there has never been a time with this much noise in business nor has there been a time when trusting one another, sharing skills and points of view matters as it does right now.
But where to start?
I’d like to offer a different perspective on how to choose your mentors, a gender-free perspective.
As an executive coach, some might believe that I can list male and female traits specific to each gender. Beliefs aside, the fact is that truly great leaders lead by example. Truly great leaders teach through encouraging individual team members to try new paths and yes, accept mistakes and learn from them.
With that in mind, here are personality traits and skills which I recommend you look for in your mentors and why these qualities are essential for you to become a successful team player and eventually an effective manager and leader:
Candid: a mentor should be open, honest and articulate about his/her suggestions. Seek a mentor who is an accomplished communicator.
Authentic: Search for a mentor who is known for his/her honesty, someone who is a consummate professional and who you can trust.
Supportive: Choose a mentor who is widely connected and is willing to share his/her network and introduce you to accomplished executives in his/her field.
Understanding: a mentor must be kind and empathetic. He/she should be able to remember that every career has ups and downs. Your mentor needs to be patient as you grow and develop your own set of values.
Knowledgeable: choose a mentor who has deep knowledge in your field and experience that has made him/her an acknowledged leader and innovator.
Experienced: look for a mentor with a track record in the discipline you want to learn. An experienced mentor understands the real-time issues facing a young professional as he/she learns specific practical skills to face the challenges and opportunities in their chosen field.
Solution-Oriented: Choose a mentor who has experience and understanding of what it takes to meet the most difficult challenges. A mentor who has a process that results in smart solutions to a team’s issues and opportunities, and produces the most positive outcomes for clients.
Collaborative: Choose a mentor who is laser-focused on working with colleagues effectively to find solutions rather than taking credit for success.
Intuitive: A mentor should be insightful and help you identify your career
goals. He or she should also help you find your own truths: which career options are best for you, and offer direction as you strategize a smart work/life balance action plan.
Avoid the trap of assuming women are empathetic and men are not or that men are direct and women are not.
Successful men and women share many of the qualities detailed in this article and are active listeners. Search for mentors who are open to your concerns and listen to you.
To succeed in business, we all need to work on the skills that may not come naturally to us. But it is crucial to make the effort. Take the time to find the mentors who are proven managers and leaders, and known for being memorable and effective.
Finally, your mentors should be great guides who lead by example. Your mentor should be a trusted advisor who will stick with you as you navigate your career, patiently allow you to learn, encourage you to take chances, think out-of-the-box, profit from inevitable mistakes and ultimately make the right choices for yourself and the teams you lead.
For more on Mentorship see "What Is A Mentor Anyway?"
ILENE RAPKIN is president of the workplace improvement agency, I Openers. Previously, she led sales and marketing teams at American Express Publishing, Condé Nast publishing and Primedia. Find her at: www.iopeners.net