It’s never been easier to find facts, figures and information. Google is loaded to the hilt, in addition to the libraries, reference books and published journals you can now easily tap for data. But this is just the first step. Entrepreneurs (especially those starting their first venture) are going to make mistakes and miss out on opportunities if they don’t have the wisdom to act on the data they find.
There’s much to be gained from listening to the advice of someone who has done it all before, and don’t just take my word for it, here’s why you need a mentor:
“I attribute much of the success of Virgin Atlantic to my relationship with my own mentor, Sir Freddie Laker, the founder of Laker Airways. I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere in the airline industry without Freddie’s down-to-earth wisdom.”
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group.
“If I hadn’t had mentors, I wouldn’t be here today. I’m a product of great mentoring, great coaching…coaches or mentors are very important. They could be anyone – your husband, other family members, or your boss.”
Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo.
What I’ve discovered about success is the real secret is to never stop learning. Every day, you should be pushing your barriers, and a great mentor is there to challenge you even further to help you break through any self-doubt or limiting beliefs and reign in your ego when you need to come back down to earth. Here’s what my mentors help me with, each and every day.
When you’re caught up in a problem with your business it feels like a big deal. To the point where you can’t actually focus on anything else. I bet you’ve all experienced this at some point, right? I know I have. What my mentors are great at is getting me to focus on what’s truly important, and realize the things I am worried about may not even matter in the grand scheme of things.
Sparking new ideas
This is one I’ve realized only recently, but a great mentor is actually really good at asking questions that get you thinking. Instead of shoving their own ideas down my throat, they’ve mastered the art of asking leading questions, which cause me to pause and reflect on the processes in my business, mistakes I have made, or the goal I am striving for.
“You’ve got to learn from your mistakes” is a catch phrase every business owner has heard, and your mentor is there to help you see the positive in everything you’ve done wrong. It may be a hard-learned lesson, but they’ll build your confidence back up, and offer powerful insights so you really do learn.
Challenge my thinking
It’s far too easy for us to slip back into old habits. When we’ve had a success in the past, our basic human nature means we’ll keep repeating the same steps, and we get stuck. In order to grow and develop, we need to challenge these patterns, looking for the opportunities and challenges just waiting to be tackled.
Keep me inspired
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a lofty set of goals to achieve this year, and my mentors are helping to keep me accountable for every one. They’re actively working with me to help grow my business, and inspiring me to work harder and smarter to achieve things I never thought possible. Of course, there’s been some healthy doses of tough love, but they believe in me.
So what should you consider when you want to find your own mentors?
Understand what you want to learn
There are many different types of success, so first you need to decide what you want to learn. Successful people are usually really focused on one area of their life, and you can look to learn the strategies they’ve followed to achieve that success. If you want help with business, look to the leaders in your industry, find someone fit if your health needs work or learn what that fantastic speaker went through to deliver that awesome speech last week. You need to find the people around you who already have a demonstrated success in the skills you want to learn.
Expand your thinking
Traditional thinking views mentoring as a grey-haired businessman schooling a fresh graduate on “what it takes to be successful,” but I’ve actually followed a very different tactic. Instead of having just one or two mentors, I’ve actively sought out the most successful people across all aspects of my life for their insights and skills. I’ve been schooled on social media from a 17 year old entrepreneur, brainstormed a host of new business ideas with a 60 year old business owner, had champion Thai fighters teach me kickboxing and have learnt more than I care to admit about parenting from my in-laws.
Get on their radar
Social media means you’re able to get on almost anyone’s radar these days. Retweet things they’ve said that inspire you, add value to their blog posts with positive comments, refer new clients, join a conversation they’ve started (or start a conversation with them). Being real and adding your own insights and experiences will get you on their radar, no matter how famous they are.
Let the relationships form naturally
You’re going to get nowhere fast cold-approaching the most successful people asking if they, “perhaps, maybe, erm…would you want to mentor me?” You’re better off letting these relationships develop naturally, as you reach out and start interacting with the people who inspire you. Demonstrate your potential first, letting them see firsthand your work ethic, how you think, and develop a trust in you. They won’t waste even a minute on you if they don’t believe you’re going to use the feedback they give.
Don’t let it be a one-way street
The best relationships I have with my mentors are because I’m also focused on giving back to the relationship, so we both grow and develop. Seek out ways to do more for your mentor than just being an active listener, understanding what they value most and taking steps to contribute back in any way that you can. When you give back, that’s what strengthens your relationship even more.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without my mentors. They gave me the courage to hone the skills I needed to start my business, have sent me countless leads growing my client base and have even helped me to refine the products and services I offer.
Now think about your business.
- How far ahead do you think you would be if you had a wealth of good advice coming your way?
- How much could you have achieved if they were there keeping you on track, every day?
That’s the real reason you need a mentor. They’re fundamental to your success.