6 Steps to Starting a Mentor Relationship

Are there people who inspire you?  Who motivate you to improve yourself?  Stretch yourself?  Challenge yourself?  Perhaps it is somebody you personally know or an accomplished person in your company.  Maybe it is a person you see at the gym or a Facebook friend.  Whoever this person is, find a way to use the energy they stir in you.  I recommend establishing mentor relationships.

People are often uncomfortable doing this, because they think it requires some level of formality or a secret handshake that is foreign to them.  This is not the case.  It is easy and I will tell you how.

1.  Find a reason to interact with the intended mentor.  Some examples include…

  • Attend a presentation they are giving
  • Sit beside them in a meeting
  • Congratulate them on a success

2.  Explain what you appreciate about them.  Such as…

  • An insight they have made
  • How they handled a specific challenge
  • Their level of commitment to a goal

3.  Ask them if you could take 10 minutes of their time because you would like to know their thoughts on a specific topic and offer to bring them a coffee.  Few people will say no to 10 minutes or to a free latte.

4.  After meeting thank them for sharing their perspective and tell them how you were advantaged by the exchange.

5.  A couple of weeks later, contact them and again explain how helpful their advice was.  Then ask if you could take another 10 minutes of their time for a different topic.

6.  After doing this 4 or 5 times, tell them how helpful all of the discussions have been and ask if it would be ok to schedule a monthly meeting with them.

Assuming that the personal interaction between you is pleasant, many successful people will agree.  This is because they have already learned that it is through relationships that new opportunities manifest and it is also through relationships that challenges are overcome.  Once that lesson is learned, many successful people want a chance to “pay it forward” by sharing what they know and to learn through the experience of mentoring.

Looking at my own history, I have formally mentored five people and I have been mentored by many.  Admittedly, some of my mentors don’t realize that I think of them as mentors and probably consider us to be business partners and friends.  This is fine!  There is no need to create formality when there is already mutual benefit.

A word of warning, however, is to never compare yourself to your mentors.  Admire them, appreciate them, learn from them, but don’t compare yourself to them.  Since you aspire to be like them in some way, it would be easy to feel inferior or “less than” they are and this diminishes your confidence and is counterproductive to success.

A saying I use frequently is: I am not better than anybody else, just as I am not less.

This is a powerful statement because it makes me equal to everybody else; whether that is my neighbor or Angelina Jolie.  We may make different choices that result in varied financial wealth, reputation, and name recognition, but it does not effect a difference in personal value.

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