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Some Thoughts On Leadership and Mentors

Posted by georgiannasaysjustdoyou on October 29, 2010


Yesterday, I presented at the International Leadership Association conference being held in Boston through this Saturday.  As the author of an essay published in Voices of the Future: Emerging Leaders and as someone who was heavily quoted in a book called Next Generation Leadership, my focus was on the business advantage of a globally diverse workplace.

You cannot really talk about a successfully diverse workforce without talking about cultural competence, and you can’t talk about cultural competence without reflecting on who you are and how you got to be that way.

One stand out point that people seem to react to is my emphasis on the important role that mentors play in our lives and therefore on our lens through which we see the world.   I have had many mentors over the years, some formal and some informal.  I often have more than one mentor at a time for different purposes.

After my presentation two individuals approached me separately, but with the same question.  I thought it was worth sharing both the question and my thoughts.

“How do you approach a potential mentor?  Do you actually ask them to be your mentor?”

There is no one way to do this, but I will share my approach and encourage others to share theirs.

A couple of times, someone who had been watching me, approached me and offered to mentor me.  We had a work relationship which had developed over time and it was time to move it to a coaching stage.  I, of course, accepted.  These folks are still in my life more than 15 years later.

Mostly, how it has happened, is that I meet someone, or see them speaking somewhere and my internal reaction is, I have to get to know that person.  Sometimes, if the opportunity presents itself, I ask them in person if they would like to grab lunch or coffee or something really informal.  Most of the time people will say yes to at least that.  If you try this and they say no, please do not be offended.  It just tells you they may not have the time you would need anyway.

If I am not so lucky, I try to see if they are going to be speaking anyplace else, or at an event that I might go to…okay I know I sound like a stalker, but I am not driving by their house at night peeking in windows.  But seriously, you do want to put effort into knowing something about them before you meet.  Google them, ask people you know who know them questions that will help you make a decision around if they are a person you could learn from.

Fast forward to the meeting (if you should get so lucky).  If you have a mutual “click”, you will know it.  I always encourage people to first know why you want to have this person as your mentor and then be prepared with a question or two you could get advice on during that one on one.

At the end, you can ask if they would be up for meeting with you again, and if they are smart, they will know what you are asking.  If they say yes, keep at it.  I don’t usually ask in my first couple of meetings if they would like to be my mentor, but I do eventually ask.  Phrases I have used include:  “Would you be up for doing this with me once a month?  I really get a lot out of my meetings with you.” or “I could really use a mentor like you.  Would you be up for meeting with me periodically?”  By the time you get to the “ask” you usually have an indication if they are willing and able.

Good luck!  If anyone else has experiences or thoughts, please share them on the blog comment or on facebook so that everyone can read them and learn from them!

I don’t have the answers, but I always have thoughts.  Won’t you share yours?

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2 Responses to “Some Thoughts On Leadership and Mentors”

  1. Georgianna,

    I’ve never received anything from you that didn’t reach me. This is no exception. The concept of properly choosing and being open to learning from mentors (modeling) is an incredibly valuable behavior to acquire at any age. It’s a life advancing practice and isn’t that really why we’re here; to advance our lives and help make the Universe a better place?

    Thank you!!!

    Jim

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