Mentors: Choose carefully the people who influence you

In today’s diverse, complex and uncertain world, we all seek ways to create some certainty and stability in our lives. The existing structures of our world are falling apart, from currency valuation to global intra-national organizations to company cultures to martial institutions.

We need new ways of doing things.

Finding mentors is one way of dealing with today’s chaos. Mentors can help us access more experience and information than we could do alone, support us during challenging times, and offer us support and insight when making important decisions.

At the same time, we must choose our mentors carefully. Talking with a mentor whose personality is very different than ours might sound good, but what if they limit our potential? In one personal experience, a mentor of mine had a risk averse nature, which felt oppressive as I wanted to spread my wings and take bold steps. Another mentor was world-renown in his field of labor economics, but had limited perspectives of resolving complexities within a political organization and so, the relationship didn’t feel expansive enough to last over time.

It’s also a matter of needs. Engaging with mentors for all types of needs and growth opportunities is ideal. For example, if you want to grow as a negotiator, talking to two to three different types of negotiators can be quite exhilarating. It can also be confusing if they’re all pitching the “right” way to do things when we know that there’s rarely only one “right” way to do anything.

Some guidelines for choosing and collaborating with mentors:

  • Have many. Choose people you like and respect and feel comfortable to talk openly and honestly.
  • If you feel that your mentor is pushing an agenda, bring that up. It’s excellent experience, as you will certainly find all types of advisors in your work life who want to urge you to go this way or that.
  • Find both masculine and feminine types of mentors. This doesn’t mean men or women, but people who can balance both types of energies and skill sets. In the current business world, most men and many women use masculine skills as their primary toolkit, which makes it difficult to find people who can represent both competencies well.
  • Be sure your mentors don’t “sound” the same, otherwise, you’re getting too much influence from one perspective and not others.
  • Balance your receiving with giving and create a true, equal relationship with your mentors.
  • Find mentors outside your employer’s organization. When people work for the same firm, interests can get tangled and that creates unnecessary complexities.
  • Create a strategic team of mentors. Clarify your life’s purpose and broader vision and find mentors in all relevant areas and industries.
  • Ensure your mentors challenge you. If they’re not challenging, ask for what you’d like and see what happens.
  • Choose mentors who have global experience. Today’s world is global and people with global skills are in high demand.
  • Make sure you feel like an equal with your mentors. If there’s a hierarchy between you, self-expression is capped and it can end up feeling like meeting a Dutch uncle.
  • Take full responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and behavior. Take notice if you start to depend on your mentors for one thing or another.
  • Always be fair, open and honest with your mentors and expect the same thing.
  • Most importantly, enjoy your relationships with your mentors! They surely take you under their wings because they like and respect you and that’s a good thing.