As you work on your personal growth, you may benefit from a mentor who can provide a sounding board for your goals and give you feedback on your approach. While this post is focused on mentors, you may also benefit from hiring a life coach. The difference between the two is that a mentor will help you informally, while a coach will typically apply a more structured approach of self-discovery with a toolkit, such as with PeopleKeys’ DISC and Behavioral Attitude Index (BAI) assessments.
Let’s look at the considerations when looking for a mentor:
1. Personality match
First and foremost, you have to look up to your potential mentor. You may also want someone with a similar DISC style or passions. Even if the mentor hasn’t taken DISC and BAI assessments (and assuming you have), you can make an educated guess about their personality style and attitudes. These similarities build the respect you will need to have a productive mentoring relationship. On the other hand, partnering with someone who may have a different BAI style than you could be quite helpful, especially when looking at areas of development.
2. Challenge your limits
Your mentor should challenge you occasionally, and you should be okay with this. If you back out when a challenge arises, then you probably don’t want to be mentored. The challenges don’t have to be with every interaction, but sometimes we all need someone to hold a mirror up to us. For those of you with a DISC style of “Dominant” (D), you will be fine with this. If you are an “Influencing” (I) style, you will have to overcome your fear of rejection. Those of you who are “Steady” (S) or “Compliant” (C) will have to get past the perceived confrontation to get the feedback needed to make changes.
3. Long-term commitment
Both you and the potential mentor should be committed to this indefinitely. Conversations can be in-person, over the phone, or even by email. True personal change takes place over more extended periods. If your DISC style is “D” or “I”, you’ll need to flex your patience and follow-through to keep the mentoring relationship going. If you are an “S” or “C” style, you love routine and planning respectively, and will follow through on the connection.
4. Friend material
It sounds tricky, but many of you may already have a mentor-like figure in your life, such as a friend, parent, or sibling. When you see it as a friendship and not a formal relationship, then it has a better chance of lasting. Not every interaction has to be a mentoring session. Consider just hanging out with your mentor over a meal, coffee, or at an event. The conversation should be organic and doesn’t need to include advice. As a “D” style, you will have to remember to give and not just take. If you are an “I” or “S” style, then you are natural (in your own ways) at this, and those of you who are a “C” style will have to curb your need for information so that you don’t hijack the conversation.
5. Ask the mentor for the favor.
Asking for mentorship shouldn’t be a formal process. Meet your potential mentor for coffee or lunch. A statement such as, “I’m looking for someone to bounce ideas off of and get their take on situations” can start a conversation about their interest in helping you. It will also uncover their openness and commitment level. If you feel better about yourself after the meeting, then you might have a potential mentor. Keep it fluid so that you don’t burden the mentor. Those of you who are an “S” or “C” style may find yourself wanting a schedule, but depending on your mentor’s style, that may be too formal. If you are “D” or “I” style, as long as you are committed, you will be able to stay flexible and informal.
I use several different types of mentors myself. One I talk with weekly, and it’s a valuable friendship. Other types are “on-the-spot” mentors where I don’t even ask for an ongoing relationship, but ask their opinion of my situation. Whatever your process, you will increase your chances of successful personal growth by having a mentor in your life.