The Power of Mentorship

By Nora Dunn on 5 September 2008 (Updated 24 April 2009) 5 comments
Photo: Nora Dunn

You just had a baby and need to learn some tricks of the trade of parenthood on the fly. What to do? Call mum.

You are training for a marathon and need some logistical and emotional support. What to do? Work with a trainer.

You are starting out as a sales rep in a company new to you and you don’t know where to begin. What to do? Ask your sales leader.

We all have mentors incorporated into different facets of our lives often without even realizing it.

  •  Your accountant is your tax mentor.
  • Your financial planner is your investing mentor.
  • Your lawyer is your legal mentor.

Most of us have teams of experts (such as those listed above) at our disposal, some of whom we delegate to, and others on whom we rely for advice alone. Much of this process is done either out of habit or necessity; rarely conscious choice.

But what if we took a conscious approach to mentorship in our lives?

Having a mentor can accomplish a number of tasks:

  • It saves you from having to “reinvent the wheel” trying to figure something out that has already been perfected by somebody else.
  • You mentor will keep you on track.
  • They provide lots of motivation.
  • Your learning curve is dramatically shortened.
  • You benefit from the experiences of somebody else, learning from their mistakes and sharing in their victories.
  • You are accountable to your mentor for progress, so there’s no slacking off!

Having a mentor doesn’t have to be a costly thing. Mum sure as heck isn’t going to charge you for diaper-changing tips, nor is your sales leader. (Granted, your sales leader probably won’t be giving you diaper-changing tips either).

Professional services like accounting and law will involve fees, but in the spirit of outsourcing, you are technically saving money and time utilizing their experience and education instead of trying to make a go of it yourself and potentially botching the job (not to mention wasting time that could instead be spent doing something else).

It pays to seek out mentors for different areas of our lives. Here are some examples: 

New Business

You are going into a business new to you, and are doing some market research for your business plan. Usually you would research the competition to see what they’re doing and then either emulate or differentiate your own business from theirs.

But what about contacting that business owner, announcing yourself as the new guy on the block (hopefully they operate in a different district from yours so they don’t feel threatened), and asking if they have any brilliant words of advice for you. The worst response you can get would be along the lines of “screw off” – no harm done. But you may also be surprised to discover an open mind and new relationship forming with this business owner. You can share ideas, they will tell you what worked and what didn’t, and you may even open the door to possible business collaborations. Both the mentor and prodigy can easily benefit from the arrangement. At the very least, the mentor will be flattered to be looked upon as an expert and likely give you a few pointers and words of encouragement. 

Physical Health

Organizations like the Running Room are around to mentor people through training for a marathon, or just learning to walk for wellness. Weekly meetings with valuable safety and logistical tips, and thrice weekly training sessions connect like-minded people to train together and stay motivated. The cost is peanuts for a two month program, and the cash outlay may provide just enough motivation to actually show up.

I myself enjoy rock climbing and mountaineering; a field where the learning never stops. While living in the Rocky Mountains, I found a friend who became a climbing mentor to me. We enjoyed many climbing trips together simply as friends, and I learned a lot from being in the company of a climber better than myself. He loved the ability to help me improve my skills, and to tackle progressively harder mountains with me! 

Emotional Health

I have one friend in particular who is my “emotional mentor”. She knows me well, and understands how to help me through trying times. Although I have many friends I could call in times of distress (or celebration), my emotional mentor is the one I know I can lean on, and who has the full picture. It is a reciprocal arrangement; one that goes beyond our friendship.   

Life

The emergence of Life Coaches is on the increase. Having somebody who can help you learn to multi-task effectively, cope with change, find a happier career , or even just be a sounding board with some perspective is a very valuable resource to have at your fingertips. Although having a coach can be costly, it is often worth the money spent.

If you want to “go it alone”, then determine the areas where you could improve or need support, and find somebody who does it well and with whom you can establish a mentor relationship. Chances are you can make it a win-win for everybody by identifying an area where you can help them improve themselves. 

 

By looking at all the areas of your life where you can or want to improve, and then finding somebody to help you do it, you will be taking progressive steps towards sharpening your skills, creating a support network, and moving forward in your life. So get out there, find somebody who can teach you something, and watch your life improve! That’s the Power of Mentorship. 

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Guest's picture

Very good article.
I have read about mentorship many times and it has been always strange to me how often it looks like you should have only 1 mentor to guide you. I think that mentorship goes with the people you trust and it can come from many directions as you have described.

Guest's picture

I've had two mentors who have played significant roles in my professional life and am so appreciative of their presence. Both women were older than me, became good friends, and helped me through many a rough patch.

In blogging I've found mentors as well- a mentor doesn't always have to be someone you know face to face!

And in return I've tried to be a mentor for others, although I don't always know how well I have succeeded! Both in formal relationships through networking groups and associations around a common theme, but also informally as well.

Great post Nora!

Guest's picture

While I knew a lot about what I do before quitting my corporate job to run my business full-time, I also knew enough to seek out mentors. They came in all shapes and sizes, some had a positive message, some were nay-sayers.

I quickly learned to carefully consider the individual's perspective when weighing their views. I spoke with several people who do what I do part time that strongly advised me I'd never make a living at it, while others who were more successful had very helpful tips on how to make it work as a full-time business.

Make sure those you talk with present a balanced viewpoint.

Guest's picture

Nora, this in a great article! I agree with the importance of mentors, although it wasn't part of my experience growing up. So I've come to it late in life, as a "mentee" as well as a "mentor."

My business, Marketing Mentor, helps small business owners grow their businesses. Lately many clients have been asking me for tips on how to choose the right mentor.

So I did a blog post this week with my top 4 tips called Working With A Mentor, and I thought is might fit well with your article.
http://www.marketingmixblog.com/2008/09/working-with-a.html

Thanks, Ilise

Guest's picture

I have found many mentors as well, I take what I need and leave the rest. Different mentors for different facets and stages. My mentors and advisors change and grow with my business!

I produce health diaries for weightloss, fitness and diabetes management so there are vast amounts of people to look to for advice...and I appreciate all of them!