Andy Lopata, Guest Author
Larry’s Note: As a Networking Coach I meet so many people at networking events that have no clue about how to network properly. They often complain that networking doesn’t work for them however they make little or no effort in educating themselves to learn the secrets of successful networkers. The solution? I recommend that you find a mentor to teach you the networking ropes. My friend, (and fellow networking professional), Andy Lopata tells you what to look for when you finally decide to get help!
As a professional speaker I regularly urge audiences at my talks to find one, or even more, mentors to help them achieve their potential. I have several mentors myself and also mentor a small number of people. But a conversation recently made me think more closely about what are the key ingredients of a strong mentoring relationship. As ever, I turned to my network for their ideas and brought them together into 5 key tips for both mentors and mentees:
ONE: Clear expectations
Both parties need to have very clear expectations about what they want from the relationship. Before finding a mentor for yourself, understand exactly what you want them to help you achieve. Not only will such clarity help the mentor to help you, it will also provide the information you need to find the right mentor. The mentor also needs to understand why they are entering into the arrangement.
In some cases it will be a paid service they offer but in many others mentors provide their services voluntarily. They need to have a clear motivation to ensure that they are happy keeping mentoring appointments and maintain their interest over a period of time.
“The greatest thing you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to them their own.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli
TWO: Good chemistry
It should go without saying that there should be mutual respect and rapport between the mentee and mentor. You don’t need to be close friends or even necessarily like each other. But the mentor needs to want the mentee to succeed, the mentee needs to trust the mentor’s advice and the two of you need to be working together to achieve a common goal rather than facing conflict after conflict. Mutual respect is a key foundation to allow the transparency and honesty, from both parties, that is essential to the success of a mentoring relationship.
The mentor’s role is to guide, provide honest feedback and to give the mentee the tools to make informed decisions. The final choice should always, however, be the mentee’s and the mentor should never seek to force an uncomfortable decision nor prescribe what they perceive to be the right route.
THREE: A structured approach
You can have informal mentoring relationships where you call for advice when you have a specific challenge you would like help and advice on. But formal mentoring arrangements need a structured approach where both parties agree on how frequently they meet, whether in person or virtually, and what they expect to happen at those meetings.
Be clear as well about what is expected of both the mentor and mentee between each session and how long the mentoring programme is expected to last for.
FOUR: Different strokes
Not everyone has the same learning or teaching style. Part of getting the chemistry right is ensuring that your styles match. The mentor should not impose their own style on someone who won’t respond, nor should the mentee expect the mentor to work with them in a way that they are not comfortable with.
As a mentee, be aware of your mentor’s boundaries. Just because they are there to support you does not necessarily give you permission to call them at all hours or several times a week. Agree boundaries in advance and honour them throughout the relationship.
FIVE: Allow for a change in direction
While you may go into a mentoring arrangement with clear objectives, the advice given or experiences during the course of the mentoring may lead to changes in where you want to go.
As a mentee, bring such potential changes to your mentor and ask for their advice and input. And mentors should be open to such changes, helping their mentee to weight up the pros and cons and reach an informed decision.
Andy’s Note: Thanks to Alan Stevens, Michael Birchmore, Fergus McClelland, Lubna Gem Arielle, Michelle Pritchard QJ, Amy Brann and Claire Boyles for sharing their top mentoring tips.
Copyright © 2013 – Andy Lopata. Reprinted with permission. Labeled “Mr Network” by The Sun, Andy Lopata was called “one of Europe’s leading business networking strategists” by the Financial Times. The co-author of two books on networking, Andy is a featured columnist the US magazine “The National Networker,” as well as being regularly quoted in the national press. Previously, Andy was Managing Director of UK network Business Referral Exchange. Andy has since worked with companies from one-man bands to organisations such as NatWest Bank, Merrill Lynch and Mastercard to help them realise the full potential from their networking. He is a former vice-president of the Professional Speakers Association. Visit Andy’s Website and BLOG.
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