You’re doing something massive, something that you’ve never done before. You don’t know what you’re doing, and that’s where a mentor comes in. The mentor is going to teach you; they’re going to guide you. They’ve done what you’re hoping to do.
The question we all have, though, is, “How do you find that mentor?” You have big plans. You want to do big things, but you don’t know how it’s going to happen.
I’ve been a part of peer mentoring groups, like Masterminds. I’ve been a part of formal mentorship programs, and I’ve been a mentor myself. And to make this work—to make this relationship really work—you need a few key things.
First, recognize that mentorship can come from anywhere. Yes, it would be fantastic if I could sit down with one of my heroes every month and have a two- or three-hour conversation with them, and that’s what we think of when we think of mentoring. We think of getting together with someone, meeting, talking about stuff, and working through things. But, what if you’re alone? What if you don’t have the connections? And how do you find these people?
Mentorship doesn’t have to be sitting down with someone and having a conversation. It can be by email or through video. It can be by finding the right people who inspire you through podcasts—you learn a lot from these people, and they raise you to higher standards. It can be through peer mentorship, as I mentioned. You can work with someone who has experience in a different industry. They might not have gone down your path; however, they’ve done other great things, and they can provide a different perspective. That person might be a few years ahead of you, and you might not even be in the same industry. Or it could be that you are building the same type of company but they built it the way it was built 10 years ago, while you’re building a company today. Thus, you both can learn some things from each other. There are also a lot of nuances and differences.
So, find mentorship wherever you can find it. Yes, ideally, you would like to find that hero, sit down with them, and do it that way, but that usually doesn’t happen. Go to YouTube. Go to podcasts. Do whatever you need to do. Do not allow something like distance or access to be the excuse that keeps you from growing, building and becoming who you need to be. You can do this right now.
Second, don’t ask people to be your mentor. The very first thing people usually do when looking for a mentor is that they are going to show up and say, “Will you be my mentor?” People often do this to me. That’s like marrying someone even before the first date. That’s a huge commitment. I don’t know anything about you. Ask for a 10-minute conversation. You can say, “Can I jump on a quick call with you? I only have one question.” See how it feels. See how it goes. Ask for a cup of coffee, whatever you need to do to get that first connection.
Here’s a really weird story (and this might not be the type of mentorship you’re thinking about): I have a 1974 Austin Mini. I bought this Austin Mini when I was 17. Over the years, I’ve been rebuilding it and trying to find parts from England and all this stuff. Ultimately, I couldn’t figure out how these few parts went together, and no matter the research I did, I couldn’t find it.
I was flipping through a magazine one day, and guess what? The exact thing I was trying to figure out was sitting right there in the magazine. It was a Q&A. It was an article people write in, and this expert on Minis answered the questions. I saw his name, so I googled it and found his email. Then I reached out and said, “Hey, I’m in Canada. No one in Canada knows anything about Minis. No one seems to have the answers that you have seemed to have. Can I ask you a few questions? I am willing to pay you.” And he said, “No problem. People ask me the same questions all the time. Don’t worry about it.” And I said, “Fantastic. I don’t want to take advantage of you, but here are the five questions I have.” Then I just hit him with these questions. He was so grateful, and he took the time to answer all my questions. I got the mentorship I needed exactly at that moment, so that was a great gift he gave me.
However, I didn’t start out by saying, “Will you be my mentor?” I started out by saying, “Can I ask you a few questions?” Don’t try to ask for the mentorship right away. Start the relationship and see where it goes.
Third, what is the mentor-protégé relationship look like in what you’re doing? The times that I see mentorship not working is when you as the protégé, or mentee, or whatever you want to call it, show up and you don’t come prepared. It’s your job to drive this. It is not the mentor’s job to drive this. It’s not their job to schedule this—it’s yours. It’s your job to show up prepared in that mentorship meeting every two weeks, once a month, once a quarter, whatever it is. You show up and give them an update because they may not remember. You can say, “Here’s the advice you gave me, here’s how I implemented it, and here’s the thing I want to talk to you about this month.” Give them the topic: “I want to ask you a question about financing. Can we talk about this?” However, don’t show up and expect them to ask you questions. They are not a consultant.
If the mentor sees that you’re unsure, scared, you’re not doing anything, and you’re not implementing anything, that relationship is not going to last. Their job is to provide you with time, attention, and insight. If you’re not doing the work, they’re going to give up—you are a waste of time.
The last point is that it’s not their job to keep you accountable. Mentors provide wisdom and guidance based on the questions you bring them. They try to do what they can to help, but you get out of it what you put into it. And if they love you, they may check-in and say, “How’s this going?” But, that’s a bonus. I often hear people complaining about relationships on either side of this, and it’s usually because the mentee isn’t doing any of this stuff.
Recognize that a mentor-mentee relationship will only last for a closed amount of time.
I was once a protégé with a mentor in a formal program, and I was in the program for eight months—a great window of time. There was enough time for them to get to know me, and there was enough time for me to address some issues with them. However, for me, there was not enough time. Soon enough, it became a chore. I became lazy, and we started missing meetings.
Recognize that your mentor will help you in this window of time, and then you will need to go off and find a different mentor because this is not a social outing—this is a time for us to be able to focus and work on the things that are needed to make stuff happen.
Now you might be asking, “How do I find them?” Well, usually I would go out and say, “Hey, I would really love to connect to a CEO.” I can put that out to my friends and my family and my social networks. I’d say, “I would love to connect to a CEO.” When you find one, you might think, “Are they the right CEO?” Well, it doesn’t matter, because if I meet with CEO #1, chances are CEO #1 knows other CEOs. I can say, “Thank you so much for meeting with me. I have this one question for you. I’m actually looking for a mentor who’s working as a CEO in a $30 million company. So do you happen to know anyone who fits this category available? I’d love to connect with them for a cup of coffee.” That’s how you can do it.
Louis is on my team. He is the new COO. You know how hard it is to find a mentor for COOs, right? It’s hard to find a co-mentor. There are groups like CEO Alliance and other things, but I’m not just talking about someone who’s willing to meet with you. What I did was, I reached out to my social network. I reached out to five different people, and said, “Hey, I got a bit of a challenge for you. The new COO at my company is looking to connect with someone to have a conversation about running a business. That’s a little bit ahead of ours. It’s not a big task. I’m just asking for no more than one hour of their time for a cup of coffee just so they can connect.”
Then we had one person who was able to really put forward a great name at their company. It was really hard to schedule; however, when Louis was finally able to meet her, he was filled with hope and enthusiasm when he came back. He was so fired up by the conversation they had, and she was super fired up too. They agreed by the end of the meeting to do this more often—like once a quarter. The connection was there. They were both trying to build similar things. You know, she’s in an organization that’s a few years ahead of us. The organization is a little bit bigger than us, but Louis’ fresh take on this role gave her insight that she hadn’t even thought about.
There was a great connection there. Was it pure mentorship? Was it a mentee-mentor relationship? I don’t know. But the point is that we were able to reach out and find someone, and we were able to make a quick connection. We were finally able to schedule the coffee, and then Louis took it from there. It seems super messy, but that’s the best way to find a great mentor.
Look at programs if you want. Reach out to lots of people. Do whatever it takes. It’s all about asking. In the meantime, find your mentor on YouTube. Find your podcast mentor.
Do what you need to do to surround yourself with extraordinary people today.