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If you’re seeking to supercharge your leadership development, a mentor may be just what you need. Find out how to find the perfect match to boost your skills and help you navigate challenges.

As a leader, have you ever felt like you have the weight of the company on your shoulders? You want to be the best you can be, but you’re not sure what you need to do in order to do that? Maybe you feel it’s a little lonely at the top?

Despite their pivotal roles, many leaders experience feelings of isolation and disengagement, according to Gallup’s 2023 ‘State of the Global Workplace’ report, which revealed that only 28 percent of leaders feel fulfilled at work, with more than 40 percent considering new roles.

In the pursuit of growth and development, leaders frequently turn to various programs and initiatives, hoping to find the support they need. However, these solutions often provide only temporary relief, leaving leaders searching for more sustainable avenues for improvement. This is where the power of coaching and mentoring comes into play.

Coaching versus Mentoring

Mentoring, a practice with roots dating back over 2,700 years to stories like that of Telemachus and Mentor in Homer’s Odyssey, offers invaluable guidance from individuals who have walked similar paths. Mentors serve as trusted advisors, drawing from their own experiences to provide insights and advice tailored to the mentee’s needs.

By leveraging their expertise, mentors can expedite skill development and help leaders navigate challenges with confidence.

 By leveraging their expertise, mentors can expedite skill development and help leaders navigate challenges with confidence.

On the other hand, coaching, as defined by the International Coaching Federation, is a partnership wherein individuals are guided through thought-provoking and creative processes aimed at maximizing their personal and professional potential.

Coaches excel in listening and asking insightful questions, helping leaders gain clarity, uncover blind spots and unlock their full potential. Many effective mentors incorporate coaching techniques into their practice, combining practical advice with introspective exploration to foster self-awareness and growth.

Why Mentorship?

Before seeking mentorship, it’s crucial to clarify what areas you want to improve.

Personal growth and self-awareness: Mentors can provide feedback, challenge assumptions and help you reflect on your values, strengths and blind spots. They can also assist in developing new leadership skills and frameworks.

Diverse perspectives: Exposure to new ideas, approaches and industry knowledge can broaden your perspective and enhance your decision-making capabilities.

Accountability and support: Mentors can hold you accountable for your goals, provide motivation and serve as sounding boards for ideas and concerns. Their encouragement and constructive feedback can boost your confidence and resilience.

Networking opportunities: Mentors can introduce you to influential contacts within their professional networks, opening doors to new opportunities, collaborations and partnerships.

Research shows that employees with mentors are more likely to have clear career development plans. However, it’s also essential to take charge of your own development and find the right mentors who align with your goals and values.

Finding the Right Mentor

Inside or out: Consider seeking mentors outside your organization for fresh perspectives. Don’t limit yourself to higher-ranking individuals; peers or coaches can offer valuable insights. Research shows leaders can often be reluctant to ask for help due to a fear of appearing weak or worrying it might undermine their status. In a less familiar role they usually give help, rather than seek it.

Be prepared to pay: Consider compensating mentors for their time and expertise, acknowledging the value they bring to your professional development. As a busy leader, you understand the importance of time and recognize that mentorship requires a significant investment for both parties.

Offering fair compensation ensures a mutually beneficial relationship, allowing you to receive targeted support precisely where you need it, ultimately yielding substantial dividends in your career growth and success.

Strong and weak ties: Consider potential mentors in your network and assess the strength of your connection with them. A strong tie might be someone you call and say: “Hey, it’s me”, and they would know exactly who you are. For a weaker tie, you might have to give more context: “Hi, it’s John. We met last year at the [insert your industry] event.”

Research shows we gain more from weaker ties. Who have you not spoken to for a while? This might be former colleagues, industry contacts, professional organizations, alumni networks or social media contacts via LinkedIn.

Research shows that employees with mentors are more likely to have clear career development plans.

If you were to reach out to three people you admire to ask for their support, who would they be and why?

Before embarking on the mentorship journey, it’s crucial for leaders to have a clear and concise conversation about what they expect from the relationship. This includes discussing how often you’ll meet up, the best ways to stay in touch and what you hope to achieve together. Clarity up-front sets the stage for a smoother and more rewarding mentorship experience.

Mentors play a crucial role in helping leaders navigate the complexities of leadership, accelerate their growth and development, and achieve their full potential.

Charlotte Blair

Contributor Collective Member

Known as the coaches’ coach, Charlotte Blair loves helping people find their passion and purpose and play to their strengths. She is an International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach and one of Australia’s most experienced Gallup Accredited Strengths Coaches. As the Founder of The Strengths Partners, Charlotte works with individuals and organizations across the world to help them discover and use their strengths to meet their goals. For more information visit https://charlotteblair.com.au/

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