Creating a Portfolio of Mentors
excerpted from The Ladders Newsletter - September 4, 2006
By Barry Zweibel
There is significant value in talking to someone with more experience. A mentor, or trusted advisor, has been there/done that, knows the ropes, sees the big picture ... and can speak from experience. Why doesn't everyone have one?
Wherefore Art Thou, Mentor?
It's not easy establishing a formal mentoring relationship with someone. Three fundamental questions that tend to significantly increase the stress level are:
It's understandable why so many mentor relationships get derailed before ever moving forward. Fortunately, there is a process that can pull things together in a more meaningful way. It's based on the counterintuitive notion that getting multiple mentors is significantly easier -- and substantially better -- than getting one.
Strength in Numbers
How is this possible? How is it easier to ask more people to mentor you when you're uncomfortable asking even one? And how are you supposed to even find this additional pool of people?
Enter the Mentor Portfolio process, which helps us readily identify dozens of informal advisors to connect with on a consistent and topically-specific basis. Here's how:
Voila! You now have a portfolio of 16-24 informal mentors and advisors you can contact for subject matter expertise and advice.
Facilitating the Relationships
Whenever you are ready for some new insights, simply pick a wedge, pick a person in that wedge, and make a call/send an email. Say hello. Ask one of your questions. Interact around the response. And thank the person for their time and consideration.
To maintain good relations with those in your portfolio, be sure to add this simple request to the end of each conversation: "If I have any follow-up questions, or want to let you know how I've applied what we talked about, may I contact you again?"
"Of course you can!" they'll, no doubt, say. And you're set.
As your needs change, or situations dictate, simply spin people - and wedge labels - off of the wheel, replacing them with new ones. And remember, because you have an entire portfolio of mentors to choose from, you don't have to worry about imposing on any one person.
Creating a portfolio of informal mentors/advisors, rather than trying to create a formal relationship with a single person, can provide significant benefits while removing many of the obstacles that have been keeping you from obtaining mentor-like tutelage. No Herculean commitments are needed from anyone, including you.
© 2006, The Ladders