How To Connect With A Mentor6 min read

connect to a mentor

John Maxwell tells an interesting story about his early days as a pastor in the 1970s. He wanted to learn and grow as a pastor. So, he came up with an innovative plan to meet up with 10 of the top pastors in the country. His plan would cost him trips around the country and a quarter of his annual income ($4,200 at that time) if all 10 pastors agreed to it.

Recognizing that they would be very busy, he offered to pay each pastor $100 for 1 hour of his time for the chance to interview and ask questions. Only 2 of these pastors took up the offer. He met with those two pastors showing up with a long, long list of questions.

He asked his questions, took lots of notes and stuck to time. Before he left each of them, he asked them if they knew any of the other 8 pastors on his list and if they did, would they be kind enough to call some of them and make a personal introduction.

Both of them happily did so. They probably enjoyed his learning attitude and the time with them that they were willing to do this. Eventually, John was able to meet with all 10 pastors because of the introductions that these two pastors made.

One of the things I learnt from reading and listening to John Maxwell is the necessity of making necessary sacrifice to achieve personal growth. Personal growth is not automatic, it is strategic. One of the ways you can speed up your personal growth is to learn from Mentors.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably must have had the word “mentor” thrown at you. In short, everyone is looking for a mentor. Not bad, especially if you consider that a lot of the most important lessons in life don’t come from the classrooms.

connect to a mentor

You probably know the different types of mentors – in case you’ve forgotten, let refresh your memory.

Mentors from a distance:

These are mentors you learn from through their books, videos, and audio talks. They also include mentors that you simply meet for a one-off session – unless this develops into an ongoing relationship. Bottom line is that these are just mentors that don’t get to see you live life.

Mentors that live life with you:

These are mentors that cultivate you through an ongoing relationship with them. You get the opportunity of providing feedback on the advice they give and updates on the recommended agreed action steps.

Most of us have some sort of plan on how to connect with the first group of mentors. You may even try out the John Maxwell strategy – it just might work for you.

But now and again, the area I see that most of us make the most mistakes is connecting with the second type of mentors – mentors that live life with you.

For most of us, the plan is easy, we simply walk across to them and say “hello sir/madam, I have always respected you and your achievement in a so-so-and-so area of life. I would really consider it a great privilege if you could mentor me in that area.”

Yes, I get it. You probably say it nicer than I put it but it’s more or less the gist of what you tell the “lucky mentor.” Unfortunately, mentoring relationships that develop like that really don’t bring out the best in the mentee and mentor. Let me share a couple of ideas to help you along your merry way once you identify a prospective mentor:

1.Get into their cycle:

It’s important to develop key interests in some of the things that interest your mentor. If this is going to be a relationship, you need to develop yourself to be interesting to your mentor. Sharing similar interests will help a good conversation flow

2.Give them value:

Before asking them for their commitment, give them value. It could be a gift, an idea to help them (yes, they also need help) or offering your time to serve them or serving an interest they value. The value you give to them is done to create trust not to hold them hostage. When you give them value, you are communicating respect to them.

3.Ask for Value:

Notice that asking them to be your mentor comes as number 3. This is because you need to go into every relationship with a willingness to give before receiving. Even if they don’t accept to act as mentors, you have grown by adding value to someone else.

4.Respect their time:

I assume they said “yes” at this point. Don’t assume that yes means yes to anytime you have a thinking itch. You need to keep your meetings as minimal as necessary with a strong duty to keep to time. Have definite start and end time for your meetings

5.Work harder than you mentor:

This means you should always be ready to repeat step 2-4 throughout the relationship.

  • Always think about how you can give value to your mentor,
  • Be precise on where you want their input
  • Don’t waste their time by having them repeat the same advice over and over without any action from you
  • Have a plan for your meeting with a clear progress report on the last discussions you had.

I listened to an interesting story about a mentoring relationship that developed this way. According to the mentor, it went like this:

  • The mentee sent an email to the prospective mentor with some news about a player in the team that the mentor supported. The email ended with this line – “no need to reply”. According to the mentor, he was impressed and the guy’s name stuck in his head.
  • About two weeks later, the mentee sends another email with ideas on how the mentor could increase engagement on his website. He also ended the email with “no need to reply”. The ideas by the mentee were on the money. And he still hasn’t asked for anything yet.
  • According to the mentor, he did this another time.
  • Because of the value, the mentor was getting, he sent an email to the mentee to schedule a Skype call with him.
  • They started talking and that was how a mentoring relationship began. In addition to having a mentoring relationship, the mentor also gave him significant business.
  • Even though the mentor said he guessed what the mentee was doing from the start, he appreciated the approach because it showed that the mentee was willing to give value first and foremost.

So, in simple lingo, don’t start with what to gain from the mentor.Seek a mentor with the goal to first give value to the mentor

It goes against the usual approach but a mentor-mentee relationship starting with a focus on value exchange would probably last longer because of the regular exchange of value.

Now it’s your turn to try this out

I bet you – it works.

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Tola Akinsulire

A married guy with a precocious son who works his (I mean me, not my son - I bet you know, right?) day job as a financial guy trying to make real estate projects have some sense to the investor. I like to talk about what I learn along the way as I live my faith in life (family, work, friendships, fellowship, community and anything else you can put here).