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How to Find the Right Mentor Match

A mentorship can help advance your professional goals, but the first step is to find a mentor who suits you. Here are some common mentorship roles and questions to ask before choosing a mentor.

Many people might cross their fingers and hope for the best when they go looking for a mentor. But hope and luck shouldn’t be a strategy for professional growth.

The truth is not all mentors are the same because not all relationships are the same. Don’t get locked into thinking a mentor is an all-knowing being who sits at the top of a mountain sharing morsels of wisdom. Mentors can take many different shapes and forms and play many different roles in your career. Here are a few to consider:

Coach. Like a sports team, this individual knows the rules and has a good sense of the skills and attitude needed from the entire team to succeed. She gives regular feedback on skills and works to help you focus your abilities. Coaches are good at refining skills and providing regular—and sometimes tough—feedback to help challenge your professional growth.

Connector. This person seems to know almost everyone. He has both deep relationships and wide connections. It may feel like the connector has volunteered or worked in every area of the organization and knows thought leaders. This person walks into a room and remembers everyone’s names—mixing, mingling, and networking are the connector’s superpowers.

Resource partner. This person loves information. She is the person who reads voraciously and shares models, ideas, and research from books, articles, podcasts, and websites. The resource partner is deeply curious and always on the lookout for new information to strengthen and transform you, your team, and your organization.

Agent. This person loves to connect people to the right opportunities. Once you share your professional development (PD) plan with the agent, he will recommend specific skill- and knowledge-building opportunities, connections to initiate, and conferences to attend. The agent should know your skills and interests to get you engaged and moving. He will help advance your career by advocating for you.  Everyone needs a cheerleader and advancer, and the agent will do this well for you.

Develop the Mentoring Relationship

Once you determine the type of mentor who would suit you best, to maximize her talents and perspectives, start your PD plan so she can offer quick and easy feedback. The plan doesn’t have to be formal, but it should be structured enough to let the mentor know how you might spend your time and conversations together. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Where will I be in five years? Look at the growth of your profession and organization. Get in line with your association’s strategic priorities and build your wish list of professional skills and available opportunities ahead. Ask what types of continuing education and formal coursework are supported in the company to both build your personal skills and strengthen your association. Remain current and enthusiastic and make yourself indispensable.

What do my colleagues think of me? Asking for consistent feedback is important. Talk to supervisors, colleagues, and volunteers, and find out what they think of your work. If you have taken any leadership- or personal-development profiles, what are you discovering about your skillsets? Is there anything that should be honed? What are some signature strengths that add value to your role and organization? Be sure to share this information with your mentor, and focus your PD plan around strengths and weaknesses.

Where is my resource base? Consider your social networks and create a list of people who can support you in your PD efforts. Who are some loose connections (e.g., people you might not know well but have connected with at a conference or on LinkedIn)? How can those connections be strengthened? What might you learn from some of those individuals?

Remember you do not need one all-knowing mentor. You can have several mentors who play different roles for your PD plan. Colleagues have different amounts of time and energy to devote to others. Know how much time you want from your mentors and the role you would like them to play in your professional growth.

Written for the American Society of Association Executives.  The link to the article for members is: https://www.asaecenter.org/resources/articles/an_plus/2019/february/how-to-find-the-right-mentor-match

Photo credit:  Christina Morillo, Pexels




Nsights: Lessons on Facilitating Workshops on the Road #20Things

After a few decades of facilitating workshops, strategic planning sessions, and important conversations, I’ve learned some great lessons on facilitation.  Some of those lessons are tough lessons learned with challenging people and/or processes.  Some of the lessons are simply best practices which have worked for me and I’ve used them again and again.  A couple of these helpful hints are just good lessons from life on the road. Here’s a list of tactics to try!

1.     Humor creates connection.  Whether you’re laughing at yourself or creating opportunities for laughing, people enjoy learning when they’re connected and laughing.

2.     If you ask a question, count to 10 silently in your mind.  That gives the introverts time to think about what they want to share aloud.

3.     Challenge with grace.  There are times to push and challenge, but never attack.

4.     Create intentional movement for the participants to discuss ideas with each other.  It’s healthy for the body as well as the brain.  Stretch – take a short time out to do some simply stretching or yoga.

5.     Remember that for some people, it’s a real risk to raise their hand to share. 

6.     Make other feel good about sharing their insights, questions, and opinion.  Don’t shut the conversation down or the people themselves.

7.     Sometimes the best learning opportunities are the most uncomfortable…and actually make you sweat.

8.     Deal with it.  Sometimes a rumbling train strides by, shaking the building.  Police sirens may interrupt a great reflective moment.  Sometimes the electricity goes out in the entire hotel. 

9.     Ask people for recommended articles for follow-up learning.

10.  No matter how big or small, freebies are fun!  Candy, water bottles, eyeglass cleaner, jump drives – all have the power to give a little boost to the group energy.

11.  Ask how many people feel like novices to the topic and how many could be experts.  Be sure to tap into the experts so they can share unique stories and examples.

12.  Think about the food being served during snack breaks.  Sugary sweets are great in the moment but create energy crashes an hour later.

13.  Watch your caffeine intake.  No one wants a jittery speaker/facilitator guiding conversation.

14.  Everyone likes to learn something positive about themselves.  Create opportunities for feedback sharing.

15.  Be prepared in advance.  If you’re running short on time, think about which nuggets of information are least important so you can punt if necessary.

16.  Do “what if scenarios” in your head regarding attendance.  My last workshop room was set for 40 people.  When 90 showed up, people had to sit on the floor and/or stand for an hour.  Be ready with a few options to lean on.

17.  Eat local. Get out of the hotel and create some memory of the city you’re in.  You don’t want your memory of a cool city to be the ugly conference room with four beige walls.

18.  Packing cubes!  These simple packing cubes have kept me organized and my clothes unwrinkled.

19.  Load up your phone, Kindle, or other device with books and audio books from your local library.  When you’re stuck during a layover or delay, you’ll have free options.  Check out the Libby app.

20.  Eat dessert as an appetizer.

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