Getting Your Dream Mentor to Talk to You
A mentor’s hindsight can become your foresight on the path to success. There are few investments in your life that will yield higher rewards and greater acceleration to success than a great mentor. These leaders light the way before you with their experience, helping you to avoid common pitfalls and mistakes they’ve made and experienced. Every entrepreneur needs a mentor, so if you haven’t got one right now, it’s time to invest some time into finding the right one for you.
Here’s the catch: How you approach your mentor is critical. Remember, you aspire to be like this person, because he or she is already at the top of their game. That means they’re busy with their own business, family and life. You need to give them a reason to want to devote some time to you. Why should they talk to or mentor you?
The truth is most great leaders love to mentor, but they want to be approached in the right way. (You are surely not the first, and won’t be the last, to ask for their time and help). So before you blaze down their door or email inbox with your request, keep the following tips and etiquette in mind when approaching your desired mentor.
Research what they already offer. Before you ask them to give you something (like their time), do some research to see if they already offer any programs. Do they provide a class or seminar you could try first to gain access to them? What about an upcoming conference lecture or speaker series you could attend? Have you already read all their books and heard all their podcasts? If not, get on it. Asking them to give you something for nothing if they make part of their living from formalized mentoring is not a good move. So before you build up the courage to confront them for a one-on-one meeting, try out the mentoring relationship through any formal program your mentor already offers.
Approach them with a winning proposition. If you’re going to request for input or guidance from a mentor, value his time and respect him enough to suggest a winning proposition. Not sure what a winning proposition entails? Well here is a losing one: "I have a question, can you help me?” What’s in it for them? And just who are you again?
Instead of asking for a single answer, Josh Shipp, author of Jump Ship: Turn Your Passion Into A Profession, approached a mentor by providing a summary question and three ideas for a solutions to the problem. Then he simple asked the mentor which one he thought was the wisest. By using this techniques, you are showing you are proactive and respectful of their time.
Follow through, then follow up. One of the greatest disappointments a mentor faces is when she takes the time to share her advice and mentor someone, only to have the mentee completely disregard or otherwise abandon the advice. If you are going to take the time or spend the money to ask for help from the mentor of your dreams, be prepared to do your part and actually implement her advice. Nothing is more frustrating than being asked for insight and then having the mentee be too lazy or too stubborn to heed the information they were given.
Be prepared to put on your big-kid boots and pull yourself up to the level of advice you’re asking for from your mentor. Make sure you recognize the help that was provided by your mentor and thank them for the advice.
If you aren’t ready to follow through and use the information they give you, then don’t ask for help.
Related: 4 Tips for Finding a Great Mentor
Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.