I need to kick off this latest blog by saying that I truly believe in the power of great mentoring. Everyone and their dog seems to have an opinion on mentoring at the moment, but I thought I’d give you my personal perspective and how it’s changing my life.
Last week I was very lucky to be invited to speak at a Putlog breakfast on “Career Planning and Mentoring”. Putlog is a brilliant group for Women in the property industry and is doing great things in driving diversity in a very male dominated industry. I was asked to talk about my experience in mentoring, and I was fortunate to share the presenting with Jacinta Carboon who was speaking about career planning. Jacinta is a beacon of strength for women in business and spoke at last year’s TEDx Melbourne’s event on “Can you afford to ignore the female economy?” Listen Here. It was a pleasure to speak alongside her and I thought I’d share in this blog some of the insights I spoke to the group about.
You may ask what makes me someone who can speak from experience when it comes to mentoring. Now, like most Englishman I’m not big fan of banging my own drum, but after reading my good friend Jannie McLeod’s latest blog, Tall poppies and Danish Laws, Read Here, I totally agree with her that we are our own worst enemy at doubting our own abilities. So here are some facts on me! I’ve been officially mentoring for the past six years within structured programmes and I’ve also mentored some amazing people outside of these programmes. I’m the current Chairman of the Property Council of Australia’s Mentor Programme More Here and I’ve been very fortunate to mentor some amazing people. Over the past six years, three of my mentees have moved overseas into successful international roles (no trend about them leaving me, honest!), one of my mentees has a PhD in architecture, is studying Psychology, doing amazing things in research and is a TEDx Speaker. Another has just won Victoria’s Young Lawyer of the Year and my mentee, who I started working with few years ago, has just won a position on the Committee of Melbourne. I’m very proud of every single person I have ever mentored, formally and informally and am blown away by what they have all achieved.
With my credentials out of the way, let’s look at how we define, or should define mentoring. If you read the Oxford English Dictionary, their definition of Mentor is “An experienced and trusted adviser”. Collins English Dictionary defines mentoring as “A wise or trusted adviser or guide”. These are obviously correct, but my, are they dull!
Let’s explore a definition with a bit more emotion in it. There is a great quote by Shawn Hitchcock who says “A mentor empowers a person to see a possible future, and believes it can be obtained”. I think this is a great definition for any mentor. However, I believe this is what a good mentor does, not what a great mentor does. A great mentor goes the extra mile. My view is that if we tweak Shawn’s quote, we can define how a great mentor works. Therefore giving us “A mentor empowers a person to see an impossible future, and gives them the belief it can be achieved”. Good mentors work with a mentee helping them build their career, from say an Assistant Project Manager to a Senior Project Manager, with a timeline and a strategy to get there. This is very valuable and important for career growth and development. However, a great mentor goes the extra mile and empowers a mentee to see an impossible future! A great mentor works with their mentee, and after they have had time to build trust in their relationship, great mentors encourage their mentee to bring out their bucket list and tackle some of the more fascinating challenges and aspirations they want to achieve, whilst still having a focus on the shorter term “possible” future!
So if you want to find a great mentor, what should you look for? Obviously it can be really difficult to find a mentor when you may not even know them, so here is my check list of things to look for. It’s not exhaustive but it’s a great start:
- Someone who inspires you. Research the person’s career, what they’ve achieved, maybe what they’ve failed at, but it’s important to find someone that will match your passion and inspire you.
- Someone who’s a good listener. This can be tough to know before you ask them but great mentors have “two ears and one mouth” and listen intently before giving advice.
- Someone with years of experience of real life skills, the University of Life if you will. Knowledge is one thing, but in this digital age, knowledge can be easily obtained. In a brilliant book “Sell your thoughts” by Matt Church, Peter Cook and Scott Stein, they talk about a shift in information sharing. They quote will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas who says “When Google is your professor and Wikipedia is your encyclopaedia, you can become a kitchen expert in almost anything.” They state that knowledge is not a competitive advantage but knowing how to apply that knowledge to achieve a specific outcome is! In my opinion that is the true definition of experience and to be a great mentor you need lots of it.
- Someone who gives advice that lets the mentee reach their own solutions and empowers them to see the impossible future, giving the confidence to make them believe it’s achievable to make the right decisions.
- Time – You need to give up your time. Time is the greatest thing anyone can give. To quote Rick Warren “Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.”
I can’t stress this last point enough. The key to being be a great mentor is a matter of time. Without dedicating time to your mentee, the art of mentoring is dead and that takes true commitment. You could have Sir Richard Branson say he is going to be your mentor, but if he doesn’t give you any time, the whole process is fruitless and useless. Giving your time goes both ways and is key to a mentor – mentee relationship.
I guess the next question is how do you go about finding a mentor? Well there are some amazing programmes out there. The Property Council of Australia has a brilliant programme for the property industry, NAWIC also have a great programme amongst others and some companies also run great internal programmes. Obviously you can look outside of a programme and approach an individual. This can be quite difficult and time consuming to find the right mentor, but also very daunting to have the courage to ask them, sometimes without having ever met them! Trust me I know, I’ve been looking and am still looking for a new mentor for the next chapter in my life and career. But when done right it can be very rewarding.
Finally, what does being a mentor mean to me? Since starting to “officially” mentor six years ago, my whole outlook on my business world, my personal life and even how I look at myself has changed. My mentees have achieved amazing things already with their lives and careers, they are just at the start of what is going to be an exciting adventure. I like to think some of their success has come from my guidance and that in a small way I have affected their career and lives in for the positive. Having said that, they have all impacted positively on me like they would not imagine. I started mentoring because I wanted to give some of my experience back to young up and comers, but what I’ve learnt is that it is definitely a two-way street and they have all taught me a lot in different ways, and that has been a very pleasant and even more rewarding surprise.
So find a mentor, be a mentor and believe in the impossible, and give the most valuable asset you will ever have – your time!