Many a conversation with next generation emerging leaders sooner or later comes to their felt need to be mentored for their development. This is frequently followed by a complaint that there is no one to help them. “I’ve looked and asked, and no one is willing to help me,” they say. What to do?
First of all, the absence of a mentor is no excuse for not pursuing your own development. There are multiple resources available to us online for growth. We can read biographies of leaders and glean valuable leadership lessons. We can do personal bible studies of leaders, both good and bad, and seek to learn from their examples. But, it is nice to have someone to interact with – a mentor who can bring perspective and personal help.
Yes, leaders are busy people with very full schedules. Few are looking for mentoring opportunities. What to do? Here’s my suggestion.
Identify someone who you think can be of some help. Approach them with this question, “Could we meet for me to ask you some questions about how I can be a better leader?” Note that you’re not asking them to mentor you. Many busy leaders will immediately decline this offer… they have too many things to do! But they all have to eat sometime, so invite them to a meal (you offer to pay!) and come with specific questions. Take good notes and reflect on their answers for your growth and development.
I’ve done this over the years, targeting specific leaders for specific topics of development. Topics I’ve benefited from are things like: how to work with an executive assistant, how to select a leadership team, how to lead a meeting, how to manage your schedule, how to lead a geographically dispersed team, lessons learned about travel, how to handle communication demands, how to arrange an office, and many, many more. All were practical and immediately applicable.
Another frequent objection is that they have never done this type of mentoring. To answer this I’ve said, “I realize that this may be new for you. But, you’ve been preparing for this all of your life. It’s my job to get from you what you have learned by asking you questions. All you have to do is answer my questions.” This makes it doable, as they realize that they are not expected to prep anything – they’ve already done the preparation.
Don’t let the absence of a mentor stop you from your own growth and development! Get after it!!! And if you do have someone, pursue them – now!!!