Don't Get a Mentor

I was recently on a hiking tour of the Utah National Parks with my son. After the first big day of hiking, Seb (6) looks at me and says, “if we are going to do this again tomorrow, we will need some help, let’s each pick 3 Pokemon to take along we can summon them up as needed. They’ve got some good skills that can help”

Turns out he leverages Pokemon like I engage mentors.

I have wonderful “mentors” turned life-long friends who I can rely on (and they can rely on) as needed. At this stage, I can pretty much anticipate the reaction I will get depending on who I call.

  • One keeps challenging me to take weird jobs
  • Another encourages me to develop my interest and practice of spirituality in leadership (ironically, because it’s important to me, not because it’s particularly important to him)
  • Another I call when I need to be humbled, or get ahead of myself
  • And, another I call when I am down and need someone to tell me I am “wonderful”
  • And others

Why Mentoring Programs Don’t Work

Stop looking for formal programs and mentors. Such programs seldom work. The matches are artificial. The “rules” forced. I’ve built such programs over the years. I’ve mentored and been mentored in such scenes. The truth is, the best relationships develop organically.

Invest time, energy, and commitment into real relationships with great people you stumble on throughout your career. Like any other friendship, if you keep your eyes, heart and mind open, these folks will show up.

My advice to young leaders:

  • find a mentor early
  • keep adding them along the way
  • invest time and energy
  • care about them as much as they care about you
  • be deliberate about keeping the magic alive

Hang on and Give Back

One of my favorite such mentors, Gary, died several years ago. I keep his help alive by thinking “what would Gary say” Sometimes his advice just seems to surface when I am on a long run, or really stuck I know he is still impacting my life and career.

The best part of having had great mentors, is the chance to give it back (same rules apply).

And when it’s real, I never let it go.

This is mentoring week on Let’s Grow Leaders. I will address a mentoring topic each day. I hope you will join in the conversation.

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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

6 Comments

  1. I coach leaders and their teams. The key to being a better leader is to have a coach over a long period of time. Consistency and longevity are the keys for success.

    Other relationships such as friends, consultants, and mentors have an emotional attachment to your outcome. These relationships are all well and good, though I challenge how much one receives towards their own growth.

    The reason why some workshops don’t deliver is because of the lack of follow up. In my Leadership Challenge workshop, I work with a leader for 18 months after they walk out the workshop door.

    There’s no “I Dream of Jeannie” solution. You can’t send someone to a workshop and think they’re going to be transformed over night. It takes consistent follow up over a long period of time to ensure success.

  2. Thanks so much for your comments. I do believe in coaches and have used one at different points in my career and received value. I agree with you that one of the problems with formalized mentoring program is the short-term nature… the other from my experience is that people are often “arranged” with one another. Even when this is based on interests or values, most find it awkward.

    I actually believe that the emotional investment of the naturally occurring mentors (which evolve into friends) can have substantial value. They have seen you evolve. They can help you to remember your hopes and dreams. They can tell if you are just reacting to something or if the problem is bigger, because they have seen you come and go through good and bad times.

    in either case, having some great people along with you for the long haul is key.

    Thank you!

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