Ask any leader about the ingredients needed for success and except for a few narcissistic fools, they will all include good mentors as part of the recipe. If you meet a leader who says they didn't have or need any mentors, you should run away as fast as you can.
It seems like at almost every training or conference I attend these days, the topic of mentoring comes up. Specifically, there is a lot of interest and consternation around how to get a mentor, considering a lot of the best mentors are very busy and are probably already mentoring several people.
An unfortunate reality of life is when we have a lot of uncertainty about how to go about something, we tend to put it off and in the end, do nothing about it. Also, no one like rejection so asking someone you admire to be your mentor only to be told “No,” can be one of those confidence-shattering moments. Don’t break into a cold-sweat just yet, though, because there is a foolproof tactic to getting a mentor.
Instead of rolling up on your target mentor like an army, with your tanks and infantry and air support and dropping the big bomb of a question, “Will you be my mentor?” go for a lower-key approach.
I like to call this Guerilla mentoring. To get good mentoring, you don’t need a contract written in blood and a life-long relationship. Sometimes, even just a short conversation for them can be a game-changer for you. So with that in mind, take the pressure off. Don’t even mention the world “mentor.” Instead, ask a question that they can answer simply, but will make a world of difference for you. You can choose your own questions, but here are a few examples to get you started.
What would you say are some of the key decisions you made in your career?
What do you know now that you wished you known when you were my age?
What book could you recommend that had a big impact on your leadership?
If these questions seem familiar it may be because they were adapted from Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life, by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller.
So the next time you have you’re eye on a mentor, fear not. Ask them a simple question and get much needed mentoring without all the awkwardness of asking someone to prom. Do this enough times and surprise, you will have a mentor without having ever formally asked for them to be your mentor. Just do it. Guerilla style.
Let me know how it goes in the comments below!