By Carol Sankar
I remember the days when I thought I knew it all as a recent 20-something-year-old graduate. I read the memoirs of all of the great leaders and subscribed to the Bio channel in the 1990s. I thought leadership would be an easy journey.
After I started my first company in 2004, I felt the pain of the curveballs as I had to embrace numerous setbacks that many founders face when bootstrapping a new concept. From failed partnerships, circumvention issues, contract disputes, HR issues and more, every day I had to encourage myself just to get through the week.
I found my first mentor in 2007 at an annual industry networking function. Our conversation took place organically and within a matter of weeks, he helped me organize a team to begin repairing the business model. I was clueless about how critical the role of HR would be to the success of the company until that moment. I learned how to increase productivity by outsourcing non-income-generating tasks and following up on deliverables, purchase orders, etc.
Within the next six months, the business was on track to shatter records financially and our mentor/mentee relationship continued. I realized he was fully invested in my success. This was the CEO of a $20 million firm that was experiencing exponential growth. I valued the input and applied every strategy provided. I realized he was invested in my success as long as I showed up, continued to grow and execute ideas.
Great leaders surround themselves with great mentors and advisors.
In 2015, I collaborated on the second installment of my research for The Confidence Factor for Women in Leadership, in which I contacted 21 of the world’s top performing women leaders and CEOs. The last question in every interview was “What do you believe contributed to your success?” Without hesitation or inference, every respondent said it was the investment of their connection with great mentors.
So how do you attract mentors as a leader? There are five key things to remember:
1) Align yourself with mentors who are where you aspire you be. Never settle for mentors who lack a proven level of accomplishment, otherwise, you will experience limited results. Remember, if you want to avoid the pitfalls, align with seasoned professionals who can navigate you around them.
2) Your mentor is not your competitor. True mentors want to see you win. Mentorship is an in-kind donation of time in good faith. Great mentors want to ensure you prosper as well.
3) Add value to your mentors. We are living through an instant gratification age with limited emphasis on reciprocity. You must offer your mentors value as well, not just drain them of time. Never assume that you do not have valuable resources to offer, even if it is just an honorable mention for the success of a new idea, investment, etc. In the words of author Ryan Holiday, “Successful busy people rarely take on substantial commitments pro-bono. They are picking you because they think you’re worth their time and will benefit them too.”
4) Seek mentors outside of your comfort zone. Look beyond your peers and branch out into the unknown. Successful people are open to diverse ideas and perspectives from global leaders who may not share the same beliefs. Think beyond your level of comfort.
5) Patience is crucial. Unlike coaching or consulting, mentorship is the key to building life-long, high-level relationships, which will become the gateway to building your inner circle at each level. I remember listening to Oprah refer to Dr. Maya Angelou as her “lifelong” spiritual mentor.
Do not underestimate the value of accelerated support through mentoring. You are only as great as the people you are surrounded by. Remember, you cannot build a successful business by only seeking your own advice.
There’s more where this came from! If you enjoyed this chapter, download our FREE ebook, Mulligan Funding’s Ultimate Guide to Business Relationships, to access 9 additional chapters jam packed with practical tips and guidelines to maximize your business relationships.