Bill Gates first met his mentor at a dinner organized by his mom.
When his mother suggested the connection, Gates thought he would have nothing in common with him, because this contact was just a “guy who picks stocks.” It turned out that they had more in common than he realized, and over the years, Gates came to view him as a key mentor and advisor.
That man? Billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
Today, Gates has created software that runs in most of the computers on the planet. He is a billionaire philanthropist who has given away more than $28 billion while working to eradicate polio. And Gates says that one of the most important things Buffet taught him is that success is not found through net worth but by “having people you care about loving you back.”
Do you have a professional mentor?
If you don’t, this is a great time to get matched with one. The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is a non-profit organization with members who provide free consultation services and advice to entrepreneurs. SCORE oversees the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors. This organization helps thousands of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses, to give back to communities, and to allow people to pass on their knowledge to the next generation of leaders.
Whether you connect with an organization like SCORE or pursue a mentorship opportunity of your own, here are four things you might look for in a mentor.
Your mentor is someone who you will be working closely with, so it’s important that you have a sense of compatibility with this person, so the relationship doesn’t feel awkward or forced.
If you sense cues that could indicate long term tension, it’s ok to voice your concerns or end the relationship. Assigning the initial stage of the relationship as a short-term trial period might make a potential termination seem more natural.
A mentor helps you stretch yourself, so it’s good if your mentor seems a bit outside of your comfort zone.
Don’t pick a carbon copy of yourself or look for a best buddy in a mentor. Diversity helps you get a better perspective on things, and it may be good if your mentor is from a different industry, age group, or geographical area.
Mentorship isn’t about following someone with the most experience or the biggest title; it’s about finding someone with the knowledge to help you on your journey.
Look for a mentor who has unique expertise or one who has worked through similar challenges as you face rather than focusing on someone with a long career or a resume that matches yours.
Because you will share intimate business details with your mentor, trust is of utmost importance.
And this trust should go both ways. When trust is mutual, both parties can confide in each other in specific, vulnerable ways. Build trust by learning each other’s communication styles, setting expectations up front, and asking deeper questions as you grow. Once a solid level of trust is established, you’ll be able to glean the best insights from this relationship.
This unique time of economic recovery is probably unlike any crisis your business has faced.
But entrepreneurs are nothing if not resilient, and you can get through this. The key is to take quick action and to lean on the wisdom of others. Why not pursue a mentoring relationship today?