Mentorship is the key to significant growth — many let it happen unconsciously. The truly successful make sure it happens on purpose.
Whether we know it or not, we are being mentored on a daily basis. The way we think, the decisions we make, the patterns we act out in our daily existence all result from mentorship that has fundamentally shaped who we are. From the time we can consciously make our own decisions, we are choosing to emulate patterns we have seen in others.
Mentorship is divided into two categories: conscious and unconscious. Conscious mentorship can be defined as “the activity of giving a younger or less experienced person help and advice over a period of time, especially at work or school.”
Wikipedia expands on this definition:
“Mentorship is the patronage, influence, guidance, or direction given by a mentor. (1) A mentor is someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person. (2) In an organizational setting, a mentor influences the personal and professional growth of a mentee. Most traditional mentorships involve having senior employees mentor more junior employees, but mentors do not necessarily have to be more senior than the people they mentor. What matters is that mentors have experience that others can learn from.”
The key here is that mentorship as we usually consider it includes a formally recognized relationship whereby one with more knowledge or experience in any given area (the mentor) is actively transferring information to someone with less experience (the mentee).
Unconscious mentorship, on the other hand, is the process of transferring knowledge or experience without a formal relationship and can be unknown or unrecognized by either the mentor or the mentee. This does not, however, mean it is any less important or successful.
In fact, I would suggest that the majority of mentorship that happens in our lives is unconscious on the part of at least one person in the mentoring relationship. Examples would be as follows:
Conscious mentor / unconscious mentee: A child being shaped by a parent who, by their deliberate behavior and instruction, models the correct behavior to the child in any number of situations, ranging from those as mundane as how to hold an eating utensil to as important as how to behave in public.
Unconscious mentor / conscious mentee: A person (mentee) deliberately choosing to model their behavior after someone they see whom they respect or admire (mentor) who has no idea of their presence of or influence on the other person. This could include a child choosing to act out a behavior they saw in their parents, an underclassman following the antics of an upperclassman or a young athlete trying to emulate the tactics used by a professional athlete they admire.
Unconscious mentor / unconscious mentee: Neither the mentor nor mentee are consciously aware of the influence the one has over the other, yet the mentee is shaped unconsciously by the actions or thoughts of their mentor. An example could be a person unconsciously choosing to align their beliefs with one political party or another based on the actions of someone in leadership.
Mentorship is powerful. Whether conscious or unconscious, it can actively shape our lives for the good or the bad. Since this is true, I would recommend that instead of allowing unconscious mentorship to be the predominate factor in our lives, we become purposeful in recognizing mentorship for what it is and proactively choose to be mentored by those who can have a positive influence on our lives.
With this in mind, Chris Suarez, host of the Xperience Growth Podcast and co-founder of PLACE, Inc., states, “Surround yourself with astonishing people doing extraordinary things.” In other words, consciously choose mentors who will propel you forward, cause you to grow and, over time, radically transform your future prospects.
Jim Rohn, in agreement, emphasizes, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If you want to move yourself in an upward trajectory, you need to actively seek out relationships with those who are further down the road than you are.
Some are reluctant to actively embrace mentorship either because of a misunderstanding of what it is or a false belief that they no longer need it. In fact, mentorship has been a fundamental component in the successes of many recognized leaders.
A post by Wiseup Networks provides perspective:
- Mark Zuckerberg was mentored by Steve Jobs
- Bill Gates was mentored by Warren Buffett
- Richard Branson was mentored by Sir Eddie Laker
- J. J. Abrams was mentored by Steven Spielberg
- Lady Gaga was mentored by Elton John
- Barack Obama was mentored by Michelle Robinson
- Aristotle was mentored by Plato who had been mentored by Socrates
Called “The Coach of Silicon Valley” or “The Trillionaire Coach,” Bill Campbell was famous for his mentoring relationships with the Who’s Who of Silicon Valley including Google’s Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Eric Schmidt and Sundar Pichai; Apple’s Co-founder Steve Jobs; Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg; Intuit’s Brad Smith; former Yahoo’s COO Marissa Mayer; Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and more.
Interestingly — and this is critical — Campbell’s involvement as a mentor was long after these individuals’ initial successes — in other words, they still needed and wanted mentorship at the pinnacle of their careers.
Mentorship at all levels is the key to success. A simple principle flowing from this idea is, “If we want to be great ourselves, we need to be surrounded by others who are great and greater.”
This is one of the reasons our real estate team chose to partner with PLACE: Even though we had achieved significant milestones on our own, we knew that if we wanted to continue to grow, we needed access to a larger room that would enable interaction with individuals and teams that were much further down the road than we were ourselves.
Because mentorship is so important to success, and because mentoring happens on both a conscious and unconscious level, my recommendation is that we focus on making mentorship as purposeful as possible.
Instead of allowing it to happen subconsciously (which, I believe constitutes the majority of mentorship in most individuals’ lives), I suggest we do a personal needs analysis, note areas where we would like to see improvement and then proactively seek out qualified mentorship in those areas.
For this endeavor to be effective, it is important to understand what mentorship is not. Here my top 10 common myths about mentorship:
Myth No. 1: Mentorship is for the beginning of a person’s career
Truth is, we should have mentors until the day we die. Even in retirement, mentors are key as they can help ensure that the final stages of a person’s life are lived with vibrancy and purpose.
Myth No. 2: You only need one mentor
If you are like me, you have more than one area of need in your life. In fact, you should identify at least one mentor in every aspect of your life. Since we are all multifaceted individuals, it makes sense to identify the key areas of your life and seek out positive mentorship for each area.
Myth No. 3: You need to personally know your mentor and they need to know you
Over the years, those I consider to have been my mentors include Tom Peters, Marshall Goldsmith, Gary Keller, James Collins, Simon Sinek, Robert Kiyosaki, Malcom Gladwell, Jack Trout, John Maxwell and so many more. Although I may have been in the same room with some of these greats, I have never personally met any of them.
Their influence on my life through their books, podcasts and more, however, is immeasurable, yet none of these individuals know me nor the effect they have had on my life.
Myth No. 4: Mentoring only happens face-to-face
There are a couple of problems with this myth: Most coaching these days happens via phone or zoom, not in the same room. Secondly, mentoring is not confined to talking. Reading a book, watching a presentation, listening to a podcast – all of these are valid ways to be mentored without any interaction with the author/presenter.
Interestingly enough, however, many well-known authors or podcasters actually respond to emails with questions about their material which can enhance the mentoring relationship.
Myth No. 5: Mentoring is time-consuming
Simply not true. Effective mentorship can happen with you listening to one 30-minute podcast a week, a 15-minute Ted Talk and so on. Many coaching sessions with a professional coach only last for 25-30 minutes.
Myth No. 6: Mentoring only works one way
Just this morning I had a call with one of my mentors. In the midst of the call, which was extremely helpful in finetuning a component of my business, I shared a resource that I use, to which my mentor said, “That’s awesome – I will start using that as well.”
Myth No. 7: Mentors should be from your area of expertise
While this may be true of Gary Keller, Ben Kinney, Chris Suarez or Brian Buffini, I am going to guess that Simon Sinek has never had a career in real estate. His books, however, have significantly shaped the way I think and run my businesses.
Myth No. 8: Mentors need to be older than you
For some of us, if that was the case, we would have a very short list of available mentors. Since I am committed to mentorship for the rest of my life, odds are at some point all my mentors will be younger than I.
Myth No. 9: The mentor needs to have training to be an effective mentor
Not true. The mentor simply needs to know more than me or is a bit further down the road than I am in the specific area in which I need their guidance. I guarantee that most of the mentors who have had a significant impact on my life and business have never given a moment’s thought to being trained as a mentor. Their experiences and knowledge and the ability to share effectively are training enough.
Myth No. 10: Mentoring leads to instant results
In the same way effective weight reduction can take months, mentoring can be a process over a long period of time. A book that effectively illustrates this principle is Eugene H. Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.
Knowing now the importance of mentorship and what mentorship is not, Clint Pulver provides an excellent description of mentorship principles in his book, I Love It Here. He explains,
“Take a moment to recall some of the greatest stories you can think of — films, screenplays, books — the format doesn’t matter. They are great stories for several reasons, but there is usually one thing that they have in common: a mentor. Luke had Obi Wan Kenobi, Katniss had Haymitch, Frodo had Gandalf, Rocky had Mick. Why were they mentors? Because they sparked the possibility of what could be. They were the keystone that connected their students to their dreams. Their credibility, competence, confidence, candor, and ability to care were the qualifying factors that allowed them to be the mentors they were. These five characteristics of mentorship are essential for you to recognize and adopt in your own life because they are what will ultimately qualify you to be a mentor to your own people, regardless of who they are or what line of work you are in.”
Pulver distills mentorship into the five C’s:
You want to follow someone who is further down that desired path than you are. Experience and knowledge matter.
A mentor also needs to have a higher degree of skill in your desired area of growth. A seasoned veteran firefighter coming alongside a rookie would be a great example.
They are good enough to be fully confident in their own abilities and aware of what they have to contribute. Interestingly, they do not need to know the mentee – through media of some kind, they can effectively communicate their message and skills.
While we all may like to be complimented, what we need even more are individuals who will pull the wool off our eyes and speak the truth in love. Frequently, the comfort of our own self-aggrandizement keeps us from hearing the truths we must hear to help us strip away our complacency and propel us forward.
Having a mentor who only tells us what we want to hear is of no use other than to bolster our overinflated ego. Legendary football coach Nick Saban emphasizes, “Average players want to be left alone, good players want to be coached, great players want to be told the truth.”
Effective mentors truly care about their mentees. While it is possible to learn from arrogant, abusive individuals, frequently the things we might learn from them are the very types of behaviors we want to avoid. Seek out mentors who not only have the information and guidance you need to succeed but who also demonstrate care and compassion for those they are mentoring.
If you are truly desirous to grow, you need to start with a fundamental question: “Are you willing to be mentored?”
Chris Suarez states, “Our ability or inability to learn has everything to do with my mindset around whether or not I’m willing to. If you’re afraid of change or afraid of a new idea because it threatens your idea of your expertise and what you think you already know, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to persuade you to change your opinions and behavior patterns.”
Further questions would be:
- Am I actively seeking out mentors in areas where I need more development?
- Am I a part of an organization with individuals who can provide effective mentorship?
- Am I teachable?
- Will I let any past successes limit my responsiveness to new information or methods going forward?
- Will my ego, pride, stubbornness or fear limit my ability to receive mentorship?
One final question is in order: “If you are surrounded by successful people, are receiving mentoring from them and you are not seeing comparable growth yourself, what does that mean?” If this is the case, then there is only one thing limiting your growth: You.
Oprah Winfrey, in a 2002 interview summed it up by saying, “I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship. Nobody makes it alone.”