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3 Hacks for Making the Most Out of a Mentoring Relationship After choosing a sounding board, be fully committed to the relationship and open to treating each exchange as a two-way learning interaction.

By Dan T Pickett Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Business leaders are required to make difficult decisions every day. Since this has been deemed one of the most stressful jobs -- and as you're only human -- this obligation can be taxing.

And the long-term effects of stress? Well, it may not be pretty. Although ultimately you're responsible for the health and prosperity of your business, consulting a mentor for advice is always an option for relief.

You're probably familiar with the concept: Set up a relationship with someone who has previously walked the path you're on and is willing to apply his or her time, experience and social capital to help you.

Standing on the shoulders of my mentors, I was able to grow my enterprise (hatched in the basement of a liquor store) into a large private technology company. Not all mentor relationships are built equally. Here are three tips designed to help you make the most of a mentoring relationship:

Related: 6 Steps to Writing Your Own Definition of Success

1. Determine the person you wish to be.

You cannot get where you want to be if you don't know where to begin.

The first step to forging a mentoring relationship begins with searching within to define the person you want to be. To do so, clearly identify your personal and professional goals and draft a plan to accomplish them.

Consider where you want to be in five years, 10 years and so on. When performing this exercise, be true to your heart, what you sense and what you're feeling. It's the only way to accurately articulate your objectives.

Related: SBA Administrator on Mentoring: 'It's About Championship'

2. Choose wisely.

Once you've established your personal road map, then go about identifying the individual who would best be able to serve as your mentor.

Before gathering up the courage to ask someone, think carefully about if you've trained your eye on the right target.

The most productive and fulfilling mentoring relationships exist between individuals who are fully committed to the relationship and open to treating each exchange as a two-way process of learning.

The mentor must be dedicated to investing the time and effort. The mentored individual also has important responsibilities. Strive to make your sessions as intellectually stimulating for your mentor as possible. It will show that you, too, are just as invested.

3. Set expectations.

Having a mentor is not a silver bullet. A mentor won't be able to instantaneously deliver the magic knowledge you desire to help you achieve success.

When starting a mentor relationship, set expectations and realize the best advice might take time to set in and exert an impact on your professional life.

Looking back, I can vividly recall the best advice I ever received, which came from my uncle when I started my career. Over dinner with my family, he relayed that the key to success lies in remaining loyal to your partners and associates and fulfilling your obligations in a timely manner.

His advice was heartfelt and made perfect sense. I understood it on the spot. But the full value and power of his wisdom only truly took hold as I climbed the ranks and was able to "live" it.

Even now while serving as the boss, you don't need to go it alone. Mentors are central to the careers of even the most highly recognized and respected business leaders. Selecting the right person to help guide and accelerate your journey on the road to accomplishment is just another way to achieving professional success.

Related: Be a Truth-Teller: Advice for Better Mentoring

Dan T Pickett

Chairman and CEO of nfrastructure

Dan T. Pickett is chairman and CEO of nfrastructure in Malta, N.Y. His company helps large enterprises design, build and operate mission-critical technology infrastructure.  


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