Six Qualities of a Great Mentor
As this year comes to an end, I thought it might be helpful to talk to you about finding a mentor. For you, a mentor might mean reconnecting with a person you feel is ahead of you in their career and nudging you to take a new step. For your students, this discussion might be helpful as they pursue growth in specific areas of their life. Let me begin with an analogy I use in Habitudes for the Journey©.
I call it Travel Agents and Tour Guides.
A Travel Agent or a Tour Guide
Several years ago, my family and I took a vacation to Hawaii. Our travel agent, Janet, was very familiar with the islands and arranged a great plan for us to implement. While we were there, one of the sightseeing trips we took up a mountain required a local travel agent. Gary was experienced and knew exactly where to take us to enjoy the best day of our vacation on top of that mountain.
In the end, we were pleased with both our travel agent and our tour guide—but we had very different expectations of both. Janet was only expected to tell us about the trip; to explain where we should go, and then leave it all up to us once we got there. Gary was a different story. Tour guides don’t merely tell you where to go—they go with you. Tour guides are on the journey, experiencing every site and sound along the way, right next to you. We had a much higher expectation of the tour guide.
This is a picture of life. You will notice as you grow, that you’ll meet people who will act as “travel agents” and those who will act as “tour guides.” Most people find it easier to be a travel agent. In fact, you’ll likely have loads of people who will give you advice…then say, “Good luck with that!” Tons of teachers, friends, coaches, employers and counselors will offer their opinion, but not get very involved in the journey. It’s less expensive for them that way. That’s why it’s important for you to find a handful of people who are willing to be tour guides; people who not only have wisdom and experience, but are willing to walk with you through some of your life.
You will likely have many “Janets” compared to your one “Gary.”
Look for Tour Guides Who Are GIFTED
Each year I enlist a set of mentors to help me mature in skills or qualities I believe are important. In fact, I select five or six areas I want to grow in, and then I hunt for GIFTED individuals who embody those qualities to be a one-year mentor. Here is my guide to finding them. Let me suggest a guide I’ve used now for more than twenty years.
G – Genuine
The first quality I look for is a person who is authentic. I need them to be the real deal; to be forthright and to share objectively what they see in me, good or bad. To be honest, finding genuine people is a rare find today. It’s so easy for leaders to hide behind exaggerated personas on social media. So, I meet with them first, before making any request of their ongoing time to see if we “fit” and there’s chemistry.
I – Influential
I look for people who have influence in their community. The reason this is key for me is that I want to learn from leaders who others pay attention to; their gifts and style are worthy of following. I don’t necessarily use a scientific measurement for this element; I simply search for people who I respect and would follow. I want to meet with people who carry weight with others. That way, I know I will listen to and heed their advice.
F – Fruitful
I look for mentors who are productive in their field of work. They’ve borne fruit. When I examine their body of work, I see results. They get the job done. Otherwise, why would I spend time with someone learning a skill or quality when it’s all theory and not real outcomes? When I’ve chosen “communication” mentors in the past, I look for people who not only speak very well and very clearly, but who are able to motivate others to respond.
T – Talented
I look for people who have stronger gifts than I do in a specific area of growth. They have more experience, talent or qualities than I do and in areas that I want to develop. For instance, I found mentors in the art of “focus” and “negotiation” who’ve been kind enough to invest in me in years past. They’re ahead of me on those areas, and each time we met for lunch, I brought a pad of questions regarding those areas. They had insights for every question.
E – Engaging
This is less important than the other traits, but I still look for it. I prefer to meet with mentors (to discuss whatever trait or skill I want to grow in) who communicate in an engaging manner. I take responsibility for the topic and even the questions I want to ask them, but I search for people who will volley back with something interesting. Something relevant. Something helpful. Something engaging.
D – Dependable
I look for mentors who have the time to meet and will keep a commitment they make for a coffee or lunch. I want them to assure me they can keep a secret when I am transparent, and they will not only listen but hold what I disclose in strict confidence. I look for people with high integrity, strong character and a keen sense of responsibility. In my conversations with my mentors, I tend to become far more vulnerable than I do with other relationships, which, frankly, requires a dependable person.
So, here’s to you finding relevant mentors for the new year, and here’s to you being a relevant mentor for your students. Feel free to forward this list to students you know who themselves. are looking for mentors.
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