Here’s Why You Need a Mentor

I have been blessed to have had outstanding mentors throughout my life. They have had a positive impact on both my personal life and my professional life. They have willingly given me their time and life experiences to help me be a better version of myself. And they have done that while expecting nothing in return except an effort on my part to continually improve. 

No matter where you are in life or your career a mentor is incredibly important for personal and professional growth. The role of a mentor goes beyond providing guidance; they act as a trusted advisor, supporter, and source of wisdom. Here are some of the ways a mentor could have a positive impact on your life this very day. 

  • Mentors typically have more experience and expertise in a specific field or domain. They can share their knowledge, insights, and practical tips that may not be readily available in books or courses. This can help the mentee learn faster and avoid common pitfalls.
  • A mentor can provide personalized guidance tailored to the mentee’s unique goals, strengths, and weaknesses. Unlike generic advice, a mentor can identify areas for improvement and help the mentee develop a personalized action plan.
  • Having a mentor who believes in your potential can significantly boost your confidence. They can encourage you to take on challenges. They can help you see your progress. They provide constructive feedback, which can be invaluable in building self-assurance.
  • Mentors often have extensive networks within their industry or profession. Through their connections, mentees may gain access to new opportunities, potential collaborators, or valuable resources.
  • A mentor can offer career guidance and help with navigating the complexities of professional life. They may offer advice on career choices, skill development, and strategies for advancing in one’s field.
  • Effective mentors not only focus on professional development but also on personal growth. They can help mentees improve their soft skills, such as communication, leadership, and time management. Those are essential skills for business. They are also essential skills for life.
  • Mentors provide an objective viewpoint, free from personal biases or emotions that friends or family might have. They can give honest feedback. They challenge the mentee when needed, and help them see situations from different angles.
  • Mentors can hold their mentees accountable for their actions and progress. They can assist in setting realistic goals and provide encouragement and motivation to achieve them.
  • Mentors often share their own experiences, including mistakes and failures. This allows mentees to learn from these experiences, avoid repeating similar errors, and develop resilience in the face of challenges.
  • Mentors often take a long-term interest in their mentees’ success. They are invested in the mentees’ growth and development, providing support even as the mentees progress in their careers.

It would not be at all unusual for you to have more than one mentor in your life at a time. One for professional growth, one for personal growth and maybe even one for financial growth. Mentors make a difference for the people they mentor. 

If you’re not sure how to find a mentor then start by looking around. Who are the people you most admire? Who are the people who you think of as successful? Who are the people you would be proud to be like? Ask those people if they would be willing to invest the serious time required to mentor you. Ask them if they would be willing to help you be your best self. 
You will know you’ve asked the right person when you receive an enthusiastic YES.

If the person you ask is hesitant or can’t commit the time don’t try to “sell” them on the idea. It isn’t that they don’t care, it’s more likely they are being realistic in that they can’t commit the time to be truly committed to helping you. At least not at this time in their lives. 

But don’t give up, ask another person that fits your criteria. Ask as many times as you need to because a mentor can and likely will, change your life for the better.

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Why Mentoring Programs Matter

I must say, and I mean this sincerely, I am impressed with the knowledge that people newer to the workforce bring with them into their new careers. Even if it’s their first job they often bring more knowledge than workers who entered the work force 20 or 30 years ago. 

And they know it. What they don’t know is that knowledge and wisdom are two very different things. Schools and books are all about knowledge. Life is about wisdom. 

It has been said that along with age comes wisdom. I can assure you that is not always the case. Too frequently it seems that age shows up all by itself. 

But generally speaking you can gain wisdom in one of two ways. You can live a long while or you can ask someone who has to share their wisdom with you. For the purposes of our post we call that “sharing” mentoring. 

As baby boomers continue to age out of the workforce they also continue to take their wisdom with them. Many large companies have formal mentoring programs in place. They encourage their experienced employees to leave some of their wisdom behind. But some companies actually “dispose” of that wisdom. They “encourage” or even force their more experienced people, and their wisdom, out the door. 

It’s only a matter of time before those companies that devalue wisdom wise up and discover the costly mistake they have made. Some unfortunately are already figuring that out. But the horse as they say, has already left the corral. 

All organizations, large and small, will benefit from a formal mentoring program. Paring a mentor with incoming employees shortens the learning curve of the incoming employee. Having a mentor helps the new employee quickly apply their impressive amount of knowledge. That enables them to “earn their keep” much sooner. 

Being a mentor allows the mentor to “borrow” some of that knowledge from the new employee. Combining that new knowledge with their wisdom often reengages the mentor. It renews or increases their productivity. 

It’s a win, win, win. A win for the new employee, a win for the mentor and a big win for the company or organization. 

But there can be some potholes to look out for. Not everyone can be a mentor. Mentoring is serious stuff. If someone is not enthusiastic about mentoring then they should not be a mentor. Depending of the demographic makeup of the workforce in your particular organization that may mean mentors will be in short supply. 

You may need to allocate your mentors accordingly. Perhaps only to people who demonstrate a passion for learning and growth. Mentoring also requires a significant commitment of time, for the mentee for sure, but especially for the mentor. While they can likely mentor more than one person they can’t mentor so many that mentoring becomes a major focus of their job. They need to continue to do their job in order to maintain the credibility that is so vital to a mentor. As soon as someone says “well back when I was doing the job” they are no longer an effective mentor. They still have wisdom. They can still be a great life mentor. But their effectiveness as a career mentor within the organization has greatly diminished. 

When pairing a mentor with a mentee every pairing should be considered a trial run. They need to “click.” Not clicking doesn’t mean failure on the part of the mentee or the mentor. It’s just how life works sometimes. The mentor has to care enough about their mentee to invest a significant amount of time with them. The mentee has to trust their mentor enough to at least consider the advice they are being given. If after 30-60 days there is no “click” then it’s time to try another pairing. 

If your new to mentoring programs I’d recommend starting small. Ask a handful of experienced team members about their willingness to mentor. Don’t try to talk them into it. If they don’t care to mentor then they won’t care about their mentee and as a mentor, caring is essential. 

Select a few candidates to be mentored and ask them about their interest in having a mentor. Again, don’t force it on them. If they have no interest in learning from actual experience rather than just a book you may have learned all you need to know about that candidate’s future with you organization. 

Get started today. Don’t let even more wisdom walk out the door. One day you’ll look around and realize you have a bunch of really smart people in your company. You will also realize they don’t possess the wisdom required to put their knowledge to work. 

The Importance of a Mentor

I’ve admittedly been very fortunate to receive an excellent education. Sometimes I took advantage of the excellent opportunities to learn and sometimes I didn’t. I suppose I wasn’t that different than most students; I did better at subjects I liked and not as good at the ones I didn’t. 

My education made it possible for me to make a living. It didn’t really do much to help me make a life. 

Making a life required a whole different level of education. A level that can only come from a mentor. As fortunate as I was to have a formal education, I have been, throughout my life, blessed to have excellent mentors. 

Knowing what I know now, if my younger self had to choose between a formal education or a series of outstanding mentors I’d go with the mentors every time. That’s because working to make a living often doesn’t open a door to making a life. However, working to make a life often opens the door to earning a living. 

You can make resolutions forever and accomplish nothing. You can set squishy goals and mushy plans til the end of time and they will lead to nowhere land. Or…

You can get serious about building the life that was meant for you. The first step in that process is getting yourself a mentor. A good mentor. A mentor who cares about you. A mentor who cares so much that they will be honest with you. Even when it hurts. 

As you begin your search for  mentor here are a few things to keep in mind.

Your mentor should be enthusiastic about being a mentor. They should be passionate about helping others, namely you. The reward they seek should be in seeing you grow and become successful. Don’t attempt to drag someone into a mentoring role, if they aren’t all in from the beginning it’s likely they will never be all in for you. 

A good mentor should help lead you where you want and need to go. They should align with your needs, your desires and your talents. They should not push you to be a clone of themselves. They should be focused on helping you be the best version of yourself. 

A good mentor will push you out of your comfort zone. They know that “comfortable” is the enemy of growth. They will encourage you to try new things, to experiment and even to fail. 

Your mentor will need to know you, maybe even better than you know yourself. That means they will be an excellent listener. They will not allow themselves to be distracted when listening to you and they won’t be afraid of a little silence while they are considering what you’ve said. 

Good mentors provide great feedback. They “tell it like it is.” They may not always provide you with the feedback you were hoping for but that’s actually a sign of a mentor who cares. 

The best mentors I’ve had in my life seldom told me straight out I was wrong. They asked question after question to open my eyes so that I could see I was wrong without being told. Those were the “lessons” that really stuck with me. 

When you’re mentor “shopping” look for a person with those traits and abilities. When you find one ASK them about their willingness to mentor you. Ask if they would be willing to help you grow into the person you’re capable of becoming. 

You may be able to go it alone but you are FAR more likely to reach your full potential if you have a little help along the way. 

Your Best Coach

I write from time to time on the importance of having a coach or a mentor. The best mentors show you what to do and how to do it. They don’t do it for you.

At some point all successful people did something to make themselves a success. They likely had a coach or mentor but they had to make the effort to act on the advice they received. THEY HAD TO ACT THEMSELVES!

Taking action to accomplish something requires a whole different kind of coach. It requires a “self-coach.” That would be you!

At some point you must push yourself. You must accept responsibility for your actions and decisions. What you’re taught can’t help you if you don’t apply it. The best advice in the world falls flat if you don’t use it.

If you do nothing then nothing is exactly what you should expect in return.

If you’re a good self-coach then you’re setting goals for yourself. Long-term, medium-term goals and short-term goals. Those short-term goals can be daily or even hourly. As an excellent self-coach you turn large, seemingly insurmountable tasks into a series of smaller tasks that you can accomplish on a daily or weekly basis.

That old city in Italy wasn’t built in a day and neither is long-term success. Doing a little each day will most definitely help you achieve a lot over time.

That’s the best thing about being/having a great self-coach…they are with you every day, all day.

The challenge with your self-coach, or your inner-coach, or whatever you want to call it, is the same as it is with a mentor or outside coach. You MUST listen to their advice and then act on it.

A single pound of action is worth more than a ton of good intentions. One thing highly successful people have in common with less successful people is that they both have good intentions. What most often separates the highly successful people from the less successful is that the most successful people act on those intentions.

So follow this coaches advice and ACT!

Your Greatest Competition

I like competitive people. I like people who enjoy winning. I’d hire people who hate losing. The desire to compete creates the opportunity to succeed. 


While the desire to complete is key understanding who your competition is can be even more important. Successful competitors believe their competition is some other person or some other organization. The most successful competitors know that their greatest competitor is the person they see in the mirror each morning. 


Too many people try to be better than someone else. The most successful people worry less about other people and more about themselves. They focus on what they can control and the only thing they have complete control over is themselves. They work to be better tomorrow than they are today. They know that even if it’s only a little better that a lot of littles add up to something big. 


The most successful people invest in themselves to ensure consistent improvement. They read more than less successful people. They find training, not just to shore up their weak spots but to further strengthen their strengths. 


The most successful people have a coach or a mentor because they know a second sets of eyes, a second opinion and a second set of experiences can make a world of difference in competitive situations. 


To be more successful don’t worry about what someone else is doing. You have little to no control over them. Focus on yourself, focus on what you can control. Focus on making yourself a little more effective each day. 

Be better tomorrow than you were today because all those tomorrows create for you the opportunity to put distance between yourself and any competitors not named you.

The Essential Qualities of a Mentor

I write often on the importance of having a mentor. That invariably leads people to ask me what to look for in a good mentor. I’ve never actually written on the characteristics of a good mentor but this post will address that very topic.


First off the fact that people ask about what makes a mentor good should be a clue that not all mentors are created equal. Some are better than others are some are actually bad. Not bad people mind you, just bad as a mentor.


It would seem obvious that a mentor should be smart. What’s far less obvious is that a mentor must know why they are smart. A good example comes from the world of golf. If you watch golf on TV you see some amazing shots made week in and week out. Pro Golfers are the very best at what they do. I’ve been fortunate to know a few and play an occasional round with them. 


They are way better than me (understatement of the year) and I marvel at what they can do on a golf course. But most of those professional golfers aren’t much help when it comes to teaching me how to hit the shots like they do. They cannot transfer their knowledge of how to hit a golf ball to me. They know what works for them but they can’t explain why it works in a way that makes it possible for me to duplicate. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t great golfers, it means that they aren’t great teachers, or mentors.


A golf teaching professional is a very different story. While they may not be blessed with the skill to play top level golf on a weekly basis they do know what it takes to hit shots required to score well. They know why some shots work and why others don’t. Plus, they know how to transfer that knowledge to the people they teach. They are great teachers and mentors.


Not all successful people make good mentors. A good mentor will invest a fair amount of time thinking about not only what they did to become successful but why they did it. They not only know what works, they know why it works. You can get the “what” from a book but the “why” most often comes from a mentor. 


Good mentors spend a considerable amount of time in self-reflection. When looking for a mentor make certain that the person you select knows themselves well. They must be able to explain both the what and the why of their success. 


If you can’t trust your mentor then they cannot mentor you. Pick a mentor that you can trust with your deepest secrets and concerns. There should be no doubt that your mentor will not, under any circumstances, share your mentoring discussions with others. 


Your mentor must be courageous enough to tell you the truth even when the truth is less than pleasant. Hopefully your mentor will have the human relations skills to not crush you with the truth. Pure unvarnished truth may sting for a bit but it shouldn’t leave a lasting scar. You do not want a mentor who is so concerned with protecting your feelings that they forget about protecting your future. 


The number one reason that mentoring relationships fail is that one or both sides of the relationship underestimate the amount of time required for a successful mentoring relationship. Mentoring is serious stuff. 


The most important thing a committed mentor can give you is their time. They may have the best of intentions but if they don’t also have time to commit to you then it will not work. Ask upfront how much time your prospective mentor is willing to invest in you. If they are serious about helping you they shouldn’t be at all offended by the question. 


Ask also if that commitment includes regularly scheduling time with you on their calendar to make sure those good intentions become great mentoring sessions. 


Everyone, absolutely everyone can benefit from a true mentoring relationship. Regardless of your stage in life, your level of success or the goals you are pursuing, you will be better off with a mentor than without. 

That’s assuming of course that they are the right mentor for you.

The Limits of Good Mentoring

I’ve been truly blessed throughout my life to have great mentors. I knew they were great mentors because every now and then they would say “I don’t know, you should probably ask someone else.” 


I’ve written several times on the importance of having a mentor. No matter your age, your current level of success, your title or your position within your organization, you will do better tomorrow if you have a mentor today. What’s more you’ll be even better off if you have multiple mentors. 


Here’s why. 


One of the things that make a great mentor is that they know what they don’t know and they didn’t pretend that they know it. 


You can have a mentor who is a brilliant business strategist but not so capable with their people skills. You can have a managerial genius as a mentor but that doesn’t mean they are great leadership coaches. 


Those “gaps” don’t mean they are a bad mentor. It’s when they attempt to fill those gaps with guesses, rumors, and plain old BS that they become a poor mentor. I suppose there are mentors who do have a vast amount of knowledge across a very wide spectrum of skill sets and situations…..I just haven’t found one.


I’d much rather have a mentor, and much much rather be a mentor, who occasionally has the confidence to say “I just don’t know,” and “I don’t want to steer you wrong so I can’t answer that.” 


This may sound a bit counterintuitive but if you have a mentor that has an answer for every question and advice for every single situation then it is very likely you don’t have the right mentor for you. 


Having more than one mentor helps overcome the limits that all truly good mentors have. When you have multiple mentors you are more likely to have a mentor with deeper experience in the area(s) where you need help. When you have mentors who look at the same situation but view it from different angles you’re provided with a deeper understanding of what you’re dealing with and that makes a successful outcome much more likely.


If you don’t have a mentor today then find one today. Find someone who you feel is successful, someone who cares enough about people to share their “library of experience,” and someone who is willing to invest a part of themselves in your success. 

When you find someone with those characteristics then you have found a mentor and when you’ve found a mentor you’re that much closer to finding an even greater level of success.