I sent this note to a young man that I was coaching. He is the son of some of our closest friends, and I wanted to do everything I could to help him be successful as he started his first “real” job.
I’d like to share with you the most important thing I have learned so far in my life:
You become what you focus on and like the people you spend time with.
In other words, whatever you fill your mind with and whomever you choose to spend your time with will in large part determine what your life will look like a decade from now. If this is true, and I firmly believe it is. Then one of the best choices you can make is to find one or more mentors to help you move in the right direction, and I am honored that you have asked me to be your mentor. Here are a few suggestions so you can get the most out of this and future mentoring relationships.
1. A Successful Mentoring Relationship Is All About the Transfer of Knowledge.
Decide what you want to learn, then look around to find a superb mentor in that area of expertise. Just because someone is super friendly or well-connected does not make them a good mentor. Find someone who has successfully achieved what you are trying to accomplish.
2. Create Clear Expectations for The Mentoring Engagement.
What, specifically, do you want mentoring in? How often will you meet? What will your role be as the mentee? How long will each meeting be? It is important to set up these agreed-upon ground rules to ensure that the mentoring relationship is productive and focused.
3. This Is Not a Casual Relationship or Friendship—It Is Work.
Usually, if someone is so impressive and talented that you want them to be your mentor, they are probably a pretty busy person already. The key to a successful mentoring relationship is a commitment from both the mentor and mentee. For example, I get asked by dozens of people each year if I would mentor them. Once I determine what area they want mentoring in, I assign them three books to read. Then I tell them that I’ll take them to lunch to discuss the books in detail and begin the mentoring relationship when they have completed the books. Establishing this reading expectation typically deters 95% of the people who approach me. They simply are not willing to commit the time to read the books, which tells me I should not commit the time to mentor them.
4. It Is a Good Idea to Have Multiple Mentors.
Mentoring isn’t like dating; you won’t make your mentor jealous if you have several other mentors. It is completely acceptable, even wise, to identify three of four areas of your life where you’d like some help and guidance. Then find a mentor for each. The only restriction on the number of mentors is your ability to commit the time and energy necessary to engage and work with each of them fully.
5. Mentoring Is Not a One-Way Street.
Although the bulk of the knowledge transfer is from mentor to mentee, it is also incumbent upon the mentee to add as much value as possible back to the mentor. The first and most important way to do this is to be a highly committed mentee. It is also a great idea to bring your mentor books, articles, ideas, and connections to assist them in areas they want to learn and grow in.
6. Establish an End Date.
A mentoring relationship is not supposed to last forever. You can still be friends once you have learned just about everything your mentor can share with you on your area of interest. But the official mentoring relationship needs to come to a close so that you can move on to a new mentor that can share new information with you and they can accept a new mentee. The best way I know to accomplish a graceful exit is to set the relationship up for a maximum of only two six-month intervals. If you both feel there are still things to work on after the first six months, you can go another six months, but at the one-year mark, it is time to call it a day.
7. Mastermind Groups.
Another great way to get mentoring is to form a mastermind group of talented peers who get together monthly and help each other. I first started using the idea of mastermind groups when I was in college, where I started study groups and invited anyone who had at least a 3.6 GPA or higher to join the group. We started with about twenty people. Then it dropped down to about twelve, then eight, then finally five of us who went to class together, studied together, shared notes, and helped each other get excellent grades through college.
I have been doing the same thing ever since by bringing together people at my home to discuss business, life, career, and other essential things. I have a group of about 18 CEOs coming to my house every 40 days or so, and we help each other with areas we are struggling in our businesses or lives.
8. Build a Broad Network.
The last mentoring idea I will share with you is to build a vast network of talented people who you can go and ask for help. Search out the smartest people you can find and bring them into your network by offering them ideas, value, information, and connections. So that when you need help, you have got several hundred people (yes, several hundred) standing by to offer you the very best advice, guidance, information, and access to their top connections. Life is so much easier when you know you don’t have to have the answer. You can simply send out a question to your network, and they will find the answer for you.
As I look back over my career, I can say with total confidence that I would not have accomplished even half of what I have without the guidance and support of several key mentors. Also, some of my greatest satisfaction has been in returning the favor by mentoring others.
I look forward to working with you as your mentor, Chris. I will do everything I can to help you, and I’m excited to learn from you as well. Take care, my friend—talk to you soon.
If you want to get in contact with me, I’d love to hear from you. Please visit my site at https://johnspence.com/contact/ and let me know how I can help.