More Mentors are Better Than One- The Art of Micro-Mentoring
The perfect mentor can be really hard to find. If you’re like most managers we talk with, you’ve got more than one area you’re working to develop. And the same person who is great with executive presence may struggle with strategic thinking. While the leader who is a master at peer relationships may struggle with managing up.
And then there’s the time factor. The most developmentally focused leaders are often all mentored out.
I remember when I was in my last few years at Verizon, I’d get several new mentoring requests every week. I would feel terrible, but at some point, my mentoring dance card was full.
What I found myself saying was, “I don’t have time for any more long-term mentoring commitments right now, but if you have something specific you’re working on and you think I can help, I would be happy to set up some time to discuss.
Those were meaningful and fun conversations for both of us, and I’ve been told the approach was helpful.
What If Instead You Found a Series of Micro-Mentors
If you’re struggling to find the perfect mentor, what if, instead you built a series of micro-mentors.
- Make a list of developmental priorities– identify what specifically you are looking to learn or improve.
- Notice who you really admire in that arena
- Ask them if they’d be open to a 15 minute conversation (I share more about how to do that in this video)
- Follow-up, thank them and share how you were able to implement their advice.
4 Ways to Be a Better Mentee
Whether you looking for one perfect mentor, or are looking to have a go with this micro-mentoring approach, these tips can help.
1. Know What You’re Looking to Accomplish
Determine specifically what you’re looking to achieve from your work together or in your micro-mentoring conversation.
Is there something about your mentor’s background or skill set that you want to learn? Perhaps they’re particularly good at navigating the political landscape, or great during times of stress. Or maybe you’re looking for better insights into how you’re being perceived in the organization or support in expanding your network with a few key introductions. As with all relationships, you’ll be more successful if you both are clear on your expectations for your work together. Have an open conversation about expectations upfront to determine if you’re aligned.
2. Be Truly Open to Feedback
If you’re going to ask for feedback and advice, be sure you’re listening. You don’t have to agree or act on it, but be sure to be open and say thank you. Nothing will turn off your new mentor more than a defensive argument about why their perception isn’t accurate.
3. Offer to Help
The best mentoring relationships are reciprocal– both human beings grow in the process. Ask what you can do to be helpful to them– even if it’s rolling up your sleeves and pitching in on a project they’re doing.
4. Bring Conversation Starters
It can be good to come with a few “starter” questions to break the ice.
- What are you most excited about in terms of the future of our organization? Why? How can I best prepare to add the most value?
- Which skills and behaviors do you think are required to be successful in my role? What advice do you have for accelerating my learning curve on those?
- I’m interested in learning more about working in your department. Who might be a few rockstars to talk with and learn from?
How to Give Your Team Better Executive Exposure