Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stable of Support

Our guest blogger today is Mark Labutis:

The last few weeks and months have been interesting. It's been a time of challenges and growth for me professionally. I've moved in directions that I wouldn't have thought possible more than a year ago.

One of the constant things over this period have been a group of people that have surrounded me and helped me work through this process of professional development. Some may call them mentors. I tend to call them my Stable of Support. This group of professionals have taken the time to invest their time and energy in me. I've written about mentors and mentoring before, but I never really answered the question of "why" you should seek out good mentors. The reasons may seem obvious, but let me cover a few of them:

1. Mentors can increase your potential- You have potential. No one will deny that. We all have potential. The question is, "what will you do with it." A good mentor can add to your potential by sharing insights and experiences that you may not have had yet. They can give you wisdom beyond your years. All of this plays a role in increasing your potential abilities.

2. Mentors can push you-A good mentor, if they truly believe in you, will push you. They will push you to expand your horizons and can help you take that first step to the next big thing. While they are pushing, they are also providing a level of support as well. This mentor affords you access to knowledge and insights that you may not have had. Oh, and if they are pushing you in a certain direction, it's because they believe in you and want to see you succeed. It's a good thing.

3. Mentors can see what you may not see-We all have blind spots. The things that are present, but we aren't aware of. Having someone who can view you and your skills and abilities from a different perspective, is extremely valuable. Good mentors can actually aid you in seeing yourself differently than you normally would.

4. Mentors can help you navigate the road to success-Mentors, because they have traveled a path similar to yours previously, can alert you to opportunities and potential pitfalls. Have you ever traveled somewhere for the first time and had a friend or coworker who has already visited the place you're going? Visit this place. Don't waste your time there. Go there on a certain day for a special event. Don't miss this. You have to do get the picture. A mentor can do exactly that, only for your professional (and personal) development.

So, now you're excited and ready to ask someone to be your mentor. Great! Now, let me offer a few pointers as you pursue this:

1. Choose your mentors carefully- Remember, you become what you associate yourself with.

2. Pick mentors who have similar values to yours- If you don't, this will, more than likely, curb the effectiveness of the mentoring relationship.

3. Show and tell: When asking someone to be your mentor, make sure to tell them why you're selecting them and the things that you appreciate about them. This will allow that person to be able to key in on items that you may want to develop.

4. Have a diverse group: Make sure to include some individuals that work in the industry you are currently in, or you would like to be in. This will allow both you and your mentor to relate the information that you're sharing. You'll also want to include some people that may not work in your profession. They can provide overall professional development to you.

5. Internal vs. External- Should you include only people from your current organization? No. They will provide insight into your current organization, however, you'll also want to include some who work outside your organization, as well. Why? Because you can gain valuable perspectives from different backgrounds. Great ideas can result from taking a concept or idea from one industry and contrasting it against the canvas of another.

6. The Challenge: Provide value to your mentor. As the person being mentored, the greatest challenge in this relationship is to find ways to provide value back to your mentor.
As for my own "Stable of Support", I'm extremely thankful for each of them. Thanks for pushing me, helping me grow and helping me see the things that I, on my own, would not have seen.

For more thoughts from Mark, go here.

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