For years, I was consciously unaware of the need to surround myself with mentors. Sure, I had mentors; I just wasn’t consciously and intentionally seeking and purposefully selecting them – or cultivating these relationships consistently or confidently.
Subsequently, I missed countless opportunities not only to ask them for mentorship – their advice and guidance to help me, but also to develop into the best possible version of myself.
This level of counsel is only possible if you have the right personalities in the mentorship relationship. You must seek the right people to serve as mentors.
In looking back and reflecting on what a more proactive approach to mentorship looks like, it really comes down to seeking the right people.
These are those people.
People with big hearts. I remember when I completed Strength Finders, a personality assessment tool; results revealed my number one strength – empathetic.
While I knew I was highly empathic, and I knew I was naturally-talented when it comes to connecting with people, it never occurred to me it would be one of my strengths, or superpowers. As I continue to learn more about what makes leaders and companies great, I’m beginning to realize that greatness always starts with heart. Massive kindness, compassion, and empathy for and around people is the foundational gift that drives everything else in a positive, people-focused light.
Look for leaders and mentors who are massively empathic. If you seek anyone for mentorship, seek someone with a big heart; seek a person who loves people.
People who are gracious and giving with their time and energy. When selecting mentors, if someone is outstanding in their respective area but does not have the time or will not take the time to be consistently available for connection, scratch them off the list. There are a plethora of accomplished and gracious people who are willing to coach, develop, mentor, and support.
Don’t waste your time trying to track down your mentors. It should be a relationship where both parties are willing, able, and eager to meet.
People who are willing to be honest and share negative experiences. In my experience, people at the top of their game have rarely climbed to those successes without encountering a few stumbles and roadblocks along the way. Many have even experienced massive failures. These people are successful despite those challenges because they understand the magic of not only finding lessons in the failures, but also picking themselves back up to do it better the next time.
There are a lot of people who are not open to sharing about their challenges, failures, or learnings. You can’t and won’t learn from them; so, instead, find people who are willing to share honestly about these challenges.
People who encourage, motivate, and uplift others. Without fail, these people will also cheer you on and encourage you. When you find these people, cherish them because they are a gift. The very best coaches are the ones who are willing to educate you as well as support and encourage you. The cheerleaders will change your work life for the better.
People who are willing to provide constructive feedback. I write a lot about empathy and encouragement; those are hallmarks of great leaders and mentors. But you also need people who are willing to shoot it straight with you and for you. I’m talking about people who will not hesitate to tell you when you’re driving off course, literally and figuratively. So, while rainbows and ponies are awesome, tough love is awesome, too.
People from all walks of life. I have learned a plethora of lessons both personally and professionally from a highly diverse group of individuals. You will be so pleasantly surprised by the power of the diversity of thought and experience Learning from those unique lenses never fails.
People who are willing to answer questions – a lot of questions. Good leaders won’t mind; they will respect, appreciate and value you and your desire to learn. Anything that sparks curiosity for you even if not in your respective trade is a wonderful place to learn.
People with strong ethics and good character. As much as you would think – and hope – that this one should be obvious, not all people – even with many of the traits listed above – go about doing things from a place of high ethics and morals. Run – don’t walk – from those people. Look for people with an inner compass to lead by strong ethics and good character.
People with massive humility. We can – and hopefully will – shoot for and hit the stars. Each of us has the opportunity to do so. But what from my lens divides good leaders from great leaders is humility. Without humility at the core, we lack the core trait that will continue to fuel our growth personally, professionally, mentally and emotionally… all critical to someone who truly has it going on not just in their respective career, but in this game we play called life. My favorite mentors are humble. These people are a gift. Trust me when I say – they are always the best of the best.
My advice at this point – consciously and intentionally seek these people not just for your professional life, but also for your personal life. Because they will not only support your future success, they will also support you as a human being.
Those people are gifts who will provide the time, energy, and space for you to see the gift that is you.
Also, this conversation is not limited to those who are just starting their careers. We never, ever age out or grow out of the stage where we need counsel, advice, and perspective from others.
Mentorship is a lifelong commitment to making ourselves better than we ever anticipated.
And that’s my not so sexy truth.