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Finding a Mentor

 
#1 Finding a Mentor
11/02/2010 13:20

Want to Learn

Hi All

I hope that someone will be able to help, I've spent over a year on this but have not been successful to date. I'm trying to find a mentor that is genuinely interested in helping and moving their people forward.

I am a senior consulant with a global consultancy (65K+), I have an internal mentor who is reasonably good but feel that I need a more rounded view.

I am looking for someone who can see my potential - if they beleive it is there - and to push me beyond my current comfort zones - beyond that which I push myself. Someone who can offer some suggestions from their own experience on how to rise above the noise, not just from a book or set list.. I know these things are within me, but my attempts so far have failed and I am following an average path.

I am more than willing to provide something back - whether that be work or mentoring others less experienced than myself. I have seen and spoken to paid mentors, but do not feel they are correct for me.

I have also not been succesful in networking to find a mentor.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to move forward with this?

thanks

WtL

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#2 RE: Finding a Mentor
11/02/2010 14:38

Richard Stewart to Want to Learn (#1)

Thanks Wtl,

happy to have a discussion. Mindbench has a very wide network within the consulting field so it maybe that we could hlep find someone suitable. Give me a call when you have a moment,

thanks, Richard MD Mindbench

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#3 RE: Finding a Mentor
11/02/2010 15:50

Wtl to Richard Stewart (#2)

Hi Richard, thanks for posting - I'll certainly give you a call.

Anyone else have any experience/advice in this area?

Thanks

WtL

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#4 RE: Finding a Mentor
11/02/2010 17:46

Mars A Day to Want to Learn (#1)

Wtl why has the mentoring so far not been successful? And how will you quantify that success anyway? It's all a bit wooly.

A mentor, no matter how capable, can push you anywhere to do anything. Only you can do that. What they can do is provide advice and a framework in which to understand your own efforts and what the cause/effect of those are and will be. I suggest you decide whether the kind of mentor you need is really about overcoming internal (i.e. internal to you) limitations, or whether it is a mentor to understand and progress in a political environment (read political as corporate). My suggestions would be:

If the issues are internal to you as an individual and about you exceeding your own limitations you don't need someone telling you how to navigate company politics, or worse some rent-a-quote muppet regurgiating whatever nonsense self help book they read on the bog that day. Better to go get yourself a REAL mentor - and I mean someone who understands the mental and emotional barriers which hinder you. Find someone who runs survival courses, extreme sports, even someone from the military. Often enough the breakthrough comes when you realise that exceeding your limitations won't kill you. Or that they are further out than you realise.

If the issues lies with company politics then you have two choices I can see: either align yourself to someone more senior (and I mean far more senior, at least 3 grades above you) and learn from them. Most highly experienced individuals would be flattered by a GENUINE request for guidance. alternatively use your networks to get talking with successful people outside your industry - outside MC I guess in this case. A successful banker, doctor whoever, will actually enable you to understand how people behave regardless of environment - the drivers behind behaviour, how to interpret them , and benefit from modelling suitable behaviors yourself - are univeral.

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#5 RE: Finding a Mentor
11/02/2010 18:19

WtL to Mars A Day (#4)

Thanks for postingMars. Your post makes a lot of sense and does help frame the situation a lot.

If I'm honest both senarios outlined are relevant. The first less so however; I am constantly trying to push and find my boundaries, both in and out of work. I do have a fear of failure, but it doesn't stop me moving forward - as far as I know.

The second is more relevant. I speak to internal people frequently, most are happy to guide where they can and offer advice. But I feel that something is missing from that advice - not a purposeful admission, maybe a closeted overview.

It was also my opinion to try and speak with successful people outside of MC; for the reasons articulated. My problem has been finding these people. And perhaps this is one of my internal limitations as it was put. My networking to date has seen me find people who turn out to be unsuitable or unsuited to provide advice. My background has been one of speak when spoken to and don't even look at the big players. Hence my post here.

Would experienced people on the forum find it awkward if after speaking to someone at a conference (more than just an hello) they were approached to provide help/guidance in general business areas? Can anyone suggest free conferences that suitable people attend?

I realise that there are people who have cracked this nut and and I am trying different approaches to doing so myself.

Any comments appreciated

Thanks

WtL

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#6 RE: Finding a Mentor
12/02/2010 15:23

Mr Cool to WtL (#5)

Wtl,

You say “My background has been one of speak when spoken to and don't even look at the big players”.

You need to address that issue straight away! If not then you will not progress much further in an MC career, nor will anyone senior wish to mentor you. Successful people are not shy or diffident – even supergeeks like Jobs and Gates have strong forceful and challenging personalities.

There are two types of mentors – those that go through the motions, albeit professionally, because it is “expected”or part of the senior consultant role at their firm and those that do it with true gusto because they see the person they are mentoring as a chip off the old block. I’ve had a few senior mentors in the latter category and it is not far off a father/son thing.

Your posts are littered with conditional grammar and vocabulary (“would” “could” “if” “might”) and a whole bunch of diffident and tentative expressions (“I feel”, “my opinion”) etc. I can just imagine that you are the perfectly competent but shy guy who sits in the corner. Look at the partners or MD’s in your firm and ask yourself how many are quiet and shy and sit in the corner? (Ignore for the moment that some of them are not competent!)

You are already working in a sought after industry, are a senior MC, earning a decent salary, have avoided widespread job cuts, are self-aware enough to seek a mentor, tenacious enough to keep at it for over a year, inventive enough to seek advice from many corners. Start bloody believing in yourself and before you know it mentors will seek you out.

Now go to the bathrooms, look in the mirror and say “I’m a tiger! I’m a tiger!”

PS – I’m joking about that tiger bit – but not the rest.

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#7 RE: Finding a Mentor
13/02/2010 11:04

R2D2 to Mr Cool (#6)

WtL, I think you have missed a trick here. Mr Cool has made some really valid points and although you may have the talent you are lacking in self belief and conviction. Ask yourself something - is it that you know where you want to go and don't know how to get there, or is it that you are still trying to find that vision of the endgame?

Sound like BS psychology but from my own experience I spent a lot of time believing that getting a mentor would provide me with a role model and the clear steps to define how I could replicate that role model's success and therefore achieve the same level. This proved to be disappointing and a figment of my imagination.

The truth was I lacked a picture of what I was trying to achieve and needed to take time out and get that right. The steps to get there are much easier to figure out if you know where you want to go.

Internal mentors will help you negotiate the politics and choices you make in your company but if ultimately you are in the wrong place you will lose heart and probably move on to start the same cycle elsewhere.

The bottom line is do you own thinking and get an idea of where you want to go then seek out the right mentor to help you get there.

Advice is always useful but in the end it's your career and you have to make the decisions and live with the consequences so you may as well start now.

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#8 RE: Finding a Mentor
15/02/2010 10:28

WtL to R2D2 (#7)

Thanks for posting Cool& R2D2. Both posts are unnervingly perceptive.

My reviews frequently characterise me as tenacious, diligent, innovative and my personal favourite "an unwavering ability to deliver the goods". My assignments also tend to see me work solo or in quite small teams a lot of the time.

Self-belief is an issue and I have been trying to overcome this by watching those I see with a great deal of self-belief. Again one of the reasons I have been seeking a mentor is to try and shadow them whilst in difficult client meetings/situations where self belief is all important. I can see that someone with self belief would not want to mentor someone without it.

The "father and son" type of mentoring relationship is exactly the type I am looking to develop. It seems like I need to make more headways towards the person I want to become before I can reasonably expect help to become that person... As to the discussion of do you have a picture of where you want to go. Yes I want to be a senior partner in my firm and direct its future.

The advice I have received on this forum has helped me think about why I am 'averaging' out however. I have come to realise however that my background; academic, training, experience; has made me risk and failure adverse. I do not make mistakes - not a statement of self-centredness or a boast - but an admission that I analyse until I find the best outcome before I move, a strategy that has endeared me to clients and my firm. The decision doesn't always produce the desired outcome but it produces what is considered to be a good outcome or the best outcome if the desired outcome was considered blue-sky - would a better course of action for me be to take a riskier route to develop better/faster/smarter outcomes - but less than 100% of the time.

Apologies if this is diverging from the original post.

Thanks for posting

WtL

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#9 RE: Finding a Mentor
15/02/2010 12:01

Mr Cool to WtL (#8)

Wtl,

The key word in the phrase “self-belief” is SELF – you can’t learn this by hanging out with people who are already very confident. It is more likely that this will simply lead you to analysing THEM not SELF. Instead take a critical view of your many colleagues that are not as capable as you and ask why they are progressing at your expense. You should not be bewildered by this – you should be ANGRY. If you can see someone progress at your expense and not feel the bile rise in your gut, then frankly you are not going to make it to that senior partner position that you want.

Cheesy or not, those old Kung Fu/Karate Kid/Save the World movies have a basis in psychological truth – Step 1, lose your temper, Step 2, learn to channel that energy in a constructive way.

The second thing you have to do is plan how you are going to make it to Senior Partner, because as a goal it is too generic and too vague. Plot the five or six promotions that would take you (specifically you) there. Then have another session with your official internal mentor and tell him about the next two stages to your career – something like “Bill, I really want my next assignment to be as team leader/engagement manager/whatever, because really I want to be X/Y/Z, and only by being team leader/engagement manager/whatever will I be moving towards that goal”.

The harder part is that you then need to stick to your guns. If your next engagement does not give you what you’ve asked for then you need to be prepared to have a professional, but determined reaction. Your managers would be furious if you rolled over in front of clients, why should they expect you to roll over in front of them?

Go do it.

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#10 Finding a Mentor
16/02/2010 12:54

WtL to Mr Cool (#9)

Thanks for posting again Cool.

Others progressing around me with little or no content knowledge, but who can talk about nothing with conviction has always rasied bile for me. I've never really seen how intelligent people (read partners) can not see through such things. It is likely they can, but the talkers do the selling and that is what matters - you can call in the do'ers once the job has been sold.

I am about to join a project where I will be engaging with a new client in a foreign location. It seems like the best time to explore my ability for a more forthright attitude to my role and career.

Thanks to those who posted for the advice and wisdom - if anyone has anting to add I would greatfully accept. I've still to ring Richard - but I will before the end of the week.

WtL

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#11 RE: Finding a Mentor
16/02/2010 14:48

Mr Cool to WtL (#10)

Wlt,

you clearly "get it" - you don't need a mentor.

You are right- an overseas post is the perfect opportunity to be the new you.

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#12 RE: Finding a Mentor
16/02/2010 17:21

R2D2 to WtL (#10)

Good luck Wtl, I think your choice of role is an excellent step out of the comfort zone and will add some of that much needed self belief.

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#13 RE: Finding a Mentor
17/02/2010 15:26

Forum Fan to R2D2 (#12)

Wtl

I think most of the points have been covered in the great responses so far but there are a couple of things I want to add/emphasise.

My reading of your words, particularly in response to some of the very perceptive posts, is that the main thing holding you back is you. I think you probably recognise that now yourself. Early on you say “I do have a fear of failure, but it doesn't stop me moving forward - as far as I know”. It is exactly what is holding you back and you have reached the conclusion that you are not able to move forward with out someone’s help. The help is all around and you just need to use it more intelligently. You say your reviews are very positive but what are the negatives that come out in them? If there are none, you should ask at your feedback session. Look around you at the people you respect who are doing well. Think about what it is about them and they way the behave that makes them so successfully. What attributes do they have that you could adopt? Using Mr Cool’s mirror advice, you should be looking in and asking what it is that is preventing you from being a tiger. (Again, don’t do that for real).

In my view you don’t need a mentor – at least not yet – as there are a number of positive things you can do for yourself.

A word of caution ….. don’t look at the foreign project as the answer to all your prayers. I have managed and worked on several projects in some very difficult parts of the world and they are basically the same as in the UK but with some tricky cultural or technical issues to get to grips with. The things you need to challenge you to help you become the person you want to be may not exist in your upcoming project overseas.

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