Mentorship is so important in business, as one can always gain a wealth of knowledge from those that have been there and done that. From networking, to advice, to encouragement, these relationships can be mutually beneficial and educational for mentee and mentor alike.
Like any other business decision, these relationships must be kept in professional perspective and well thought out on the front end to help in avoiding disappointments from unrealistic expectations that we may have set.
Mentor Brain-Trust: Strength in Numbers
Being really successful in an area alone does not qualify someone to be YOUR mentor. To have a successful mentoring relationship, one must decide what it is about that person’s success that touches a cord with you?
Is it their business acumen that you admire? How they are able to quickly dive in and understand any given professional situation and help bring about a positive outcome.
Is it their ability to create and foster relationships? Do you admire the fact that they know no strangers and everyone seems to connect with them, love them and respect them.
Does their passion inspire you to be better and to do better? So much so that you want to study what they study, experience what they experience and go where they go.
Like every member of a team has their own unique strength, can we not have multiple mentors that fill our different professional needs based on their individual strengths?
Is it even possible to get everything you need from one person, or is it better to draw from the positive attributes of several that we consider influential or successful and learn for them all, creating a “Frankenmentor”:
- One piece from the scholar
- One from the business person
- One from the teacher
- One from the networker
- One from the entrepreneur, etc.
…until we are mentee-illy complete. Not only learning different skills from each individual, but also learning how to manage multiple relationships in the process.
Pitfalls of Having Only One Mentor
Because we sometimes hold our experts and our mentors to such a high standard, we feel as if in order to be a mentor that they must be all of these things to us before we commit to learning from them. For this reason, many of us don’t have any one person that we consider to be a mentor.
When we believe in someone, it is easy to forget that the person we’re looking up to is a human being just like us. When our professional faith is wrapped up in only one person, we subject ourselves to disappointment when (not if) this person missteps, misspeaks or makes a decision that we may not necessarily agree with. Not because they are no longer any expert in their given field but because we put our trust in a gap that we weren’t originally looking for them to fill. And if one relationship fails, we are not left mentor-less.
“Being on a pedestal doesn’t exempt one from gravity.” – Justin Harris 2013
So to maximize our mentee experience, it’s my opinion that we diversify, just like with any other investment and have several mentors. By spreading the educational risk around, we learn and observe each mentor in moderation, getting the best from each and forming a quality whole, ultimately learning several styles, techniques and philosophies to help us become even more successful in our given area.
Knowing exactly what we need from each mentor forces us to be specific in what we ourselves are willing to give to each mentor, so that realistic expectations can be had by everyone involved and the collaborative learning is directed, intentional and ultimately meaningful.