Can you remember someone who selflessly shared his wealth of knowledge and experience with you to help you succeed? Mentors come to us disguised as parents, coaches, teachers, colleagues, supervisors and friends. Mentors share with us what they've learned to help us avoid making the same mistakes they made. They support us through our struggles with guidance and constant nurturing. They celebrate our achievements as if they were their own. They are the very embodiment of the " Givers Gain " philosophy--in other words, they are happy to give their time and effort to help others because they know that by helping others unselfishly, others will ultimately want to help them in return.

Mentors are invaluable resources for our business success. They guide us through growth, change and crisis; they help us become who we are truly meant to be. Mentors are leaders, often leading by example. Leaders move us forward. As Peter F. Drucker , the man considered the father of modern management, said, "Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations."

Take a moment and tap into the feelings you have for your mentors. If you're like me, you feel a deep sense of gratitude, respect and admiration for them. If you could, you would no doubt place them on a pedestal--not to mention thank them for all their help. This relationship will stand the test of time and distance. If a mentor called you today and asked for a favor, you'd stop what you were doing and give her request your full attention. You would do almost anything for her with the utmost attention to details of service and quality.

Now imagine that you were someone's mentor--and that person had those same feelings toward you. Imagine the depth and intensity of that relationship. Imagine the loyalty. Imagine the sense of accomplishment you'd feel. Perhaps there is someone who already considers you a mentor. Perhaps you know someone you'd like to mentor--someone who reminds you of yourself when you were just getting started in business.

It's common knowledge that if you want to improve your skill, you should teach someone else. I learned this firsthand many years ago in martial arts. I discovered that by teaching other students some of the fundamentals, I improved my own martial arts skills. Later, this lesson was repeated for me in regard to playing chess. I was always a decent player; however, it wasn't until I started coaching a school chess club that my game really started to improve. Teaching young people the rudiments of chess strategy made me focus on improving my own game. Sometimes mentoring and coaching others gets us to focus on the basics and apply them better ourselves.

So why not try helping others with the networking strategies that you've found successful? Reach out to someone you know who may be disconnected or just starting out in the world of networking and begin to connect them to your network. This behavior embodies the qualities of a master networker and will definitely improve your networking skills by acting as a refresher for what you've learned and getting you to refocus your efforts on areas you may have forgotten.

Before entering into a mentoring relationship, however, you should reflect on each of the qualities of a good mentor, which are presented in the list below (courtesy of Michael J. Freeman and www.sonic.net/~mfreeman/mentor/mentchar.htm .).

7 Characteristics of a Good Mentor

  1. A desire to help. Individuals who are interested in and willing to help others.
  2. Have had positive experiences. Those who have had positive formal or informal experiences with a mentor tend to be good mentors themselves.
  3. Good reputation for developing others. Experienced people who have a good reputation for helping others develop their skills.
  4. Time and energy. People who have the time and mental energy to devote to the relationship.
  5. Up-to-date knowledge. Those who have maintained current, up-to-date technological knowledge and/or skills.
  6. Learning attitude. Individuals who are still willing and able to learn and who see the potential benefits of a mentoring relationship.
  7. Demonstrated effective managerial (mentoring) skills. People who have demonstrated effective coaching, counseling, facilitating and networking skills.

After determining your interest in and capacity for becoming a mentor, you might take a look at those in your various networking circles who might benefit from your help or area of expertise. There are also many volunteering opportunities at local high schools or community colleges, where many students could benefit from having a mentoring relationship at this time in their lives.

Keep in mind, though, that many potential "mentees" may be shy about approaching you, assuming you are too busy with your business to help them. Make your availability known, and you may soon be involved in one of the most professionally and personally fulfilling relationships of your life.