Mentors are NOT one size fits all.

This something I learned early as an ambitious young leader. I was ALWAYS looking (and still am) for who I could learn from next. This, by the way, is a good trait to have. However, I was never taught that not everyone who happens to know more than me in my field of work, or an area of life that I wanted to grow in, was the right mentor for me. As a result of my ignorance in this I had a few unfortunate coffee dates with potential mentors where we both walked away probably thinking, “Let’s NEVER do that again!” While there were others that I happened upon that was the perfect fit!

“Mentors are NOT one size fits all.”

Nevertheless, mentorship is a significant part of our growth as leaders and it should be a consistent part as well. I eventually realized that some intentionality should go into selecting the people we’re asking to invest time and knowledge in us. We all need a tool or filter for how to successfully choose a mentor that we can learn from. While we can be informally mentored throughout our lives, formal mentorship takes intentionality.

“Nevertheless, mentorship is a significant part of our growth as leaders and it should be a consistent part as well.”

My foundational filter for selecting a mentor is two-fold. First, I look for someone who is living a principle that I want to learn. Whether it’s for becoming a better husband, a better son, a better employee or another area of life. If they’re living it out that’s my first ✓. The second thing I look for if I am unable to find someone who is already where I want to go is someone who is headed in the same direction but just ahead of me. That’s the second ✓. Then to those two, I add the following three filters.

1 KNOW HOW YOU LEARN BEST

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The first thing we have to ask is, “How do I learn best?” This question is key. How we learn is essentially the container that we’ll use to help us hold on to the knowledge that our mentor passes on. Are you a hands-on learner? Are you visual? Are you an auditory learner? Knowing the answer to this question will help us walk away from that mentorship with the most growth possible. It will help you and your mentor determine how to best navigate the teaching, coaching and learning experience.

Tip: An easy indicator of whether or not you know the answer is to think about how often you’ve wondered to yourself about why you learn really well sometimes but not all the time. If you think about that a lot, chances are you don’t yet know how you best learn and need to spend time figuring that out.

2 KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO LEARN

A common mistake people often make when entering into mentorship is thinking that they’re going to somehow learn everything from the mentor. This is unrealistic. The mentor will not be able to do that nor will we be able to learn it all. especially in short-term mentoring relationships. I learned that identifying a specific an item that I’d like to walk away with is far more successful.

For example, if you’re a Christian and you admire the spiritual walk of a more mature believer. Instead of trying to learn how to be as spiritual as they are. Try narrowing your focus to learning how to find consistency in your walk with God.

Here’s another example, if you’re new on the job with lots to learn, take few minutes to identify the area you feel the most pressure to deliver on. Identify a core item you can learn and use to improve that specific area on the job. After you’ve done this filtering, then go find a mentor to guide your learning that ONE thing. If you learn other things great!

3 KNOW THE TIME YOU NEED

This third and final filter will likely be one of the most practical tools for both you and your mentor DURING your mentorship. Before we identify a mentor to help us learn, we need to get a clear idea of just how long it may take you to learn it. A couple of hours? Days? Maybe months? My point is that Formal Mentorship should never have an indefinite timeline. That can turn into a dreadful thing for both parties. Whenever we’re entering into a mentoring relationship we should always establish a clear timeline.

If you’re both able to commit to an hour meeting once a month and you know you’ll need at least 3 hours to fully learn the idea or topic well, ask for four meetings. The fourth will reduce the pressure on the first three and allow room for flexibility.

THE POCKET POTENTIAL

Since mentorship is such an integral part of continuing to develop as a leader, we should have a tool or filter for how to successfully choose a mentor for ourselves. The following three are my filters.

  1. Know how you learn best
  2. Know what you want to learn
  3. Know the time you need

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, be sure to share it with a friend and follow this blog by signing up with your email. Also, if you have other ideas about great practices of self-leadership leave a comment! I’d love to learn from you!

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