Every person who wants to make headway in life needs a mentor. The knowledge revealed by such a mentor to the protégé is invaluable and it helps to bridge a gap that would have otherwise taken longer and probably cost a whale of resources to acquire.
The first step is to identify “What” you need, not “who”. So what do you need? Skills?
In depth knowledge? Access to a network (of people)? Specialized information? With the right mentorship we can achieve a lot of our desires through a fellowship that works for us first hand. In proper mentorship processes, power and access of different kinds is exchanged and maintained in various forms.
And the protégé becomes a better person. The person we pick may not necessarily be likable, he or she may not necessarily be perfect, having all the attributes we desire, but one strong significant gift could be enough for us to want to understudy such mastery. Philip Jones, author and philosopher of four steps to selecting a mentor says the “what” must come before the “who”. The belief is we don’t want to be fazed by imperfections. Neither do we want to be infected by bad attitudes and undesirable behavior. If I seek an understanding of investment on the stock market, I could read up everything available on derivatives and stocks. But masters in investment don’t put all their tricks and tool boxes into a book for the public consumption.
Some of these attributes are so unobtrusive that the mentor might not capture them in a book. Observation and first hand information works wonders. Next from identifying what we want is a process of self examination. The would-be protégé needs to question himself: What kind of learner am I? Am I teachable? Will ego or age difference(in the case where the protégé is older than his mentor) get in the way?
Would I be ready to commit myself to acquiring the gifts I desire from the person I have chosen? Self examination is a tough process. Not many people can admit their flaws and weaknesses without putting up a defense. To be a fitting protégé, our mindsets have to change. We should come to the learning table with our cups empty, ready to fill them up. The third step is to identify the mentor. Who is he? How do I get access? Why am I choosing such a person? Does he really have skills, talents, attitudes and beliefs that I desire?
The best approach is to make a list of people, do proper checks on them from afar, understand their qualities and even their weaknesses where it’s applicable. Now that you have an idea of whom you are dealing with, approach them! Approaching such people is often strewn with land mines and brick walls of rejection.
The trick to overcoming such resistance is in our manner of approach and commitment to our intentions. We must make it abundantly clear to the intended mentor that the relationship and rapport we wish to encourage is not exploitative beyond the altruistic intentions we have. Many of such people would have a red light go off in their psyche if we betray any semblance of gold digging.
The relationship is a hunt for fish catching techniques and not a cap in hand seeking instant gratification. If our approach is to be fruitful, it must be laddered with proper clear cut communication that would win the mentors’ attention. The attention span of the kind of people we wish to learn from is often very short. So part of our being prepared to meet with such people would include a meeting plan of questions, the ability to listen more than make comments; where necessary take notes and absorb as much as possible from such meetings. We should not think that we can only have one mentor in life. We can have different mentors for different aspects of our life: Marriage, business and finance, academics, health, networking. It really depends on what we are interested in.
Our objectives are the same in all situations: we wish to improve on what we are doing and achieve a greater level of performance. There is a lot of mentorship going on at various levels of endeavor from politics to religion onto business. Almost all well-known, accomplished and successful people can identify people in their lives who acted as mentors. • Richard Nixon mentored George Bush (42nd President of the US) • Boris Yeltsin mentored Vladimir Putin • Condoleeza Rice mentored George W. Bush (44th President of the US) • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. mentored Jesse Jackson • Elijah mentored Elisha (Israelite prophet) • Socrates mentored Plato • Aristotle mentored Alexander the Great • Sir Keith Joseph mentored Margaret Thatcher • Margaret Thatcher mentored John Major • Lord Irvine mentored Tony Blair • Sidney Weinberg mentored Henry Ford