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Looking for some advice on mentors


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I was involved in a long conversation with an old colleague and the topic turned to mentors. I mentioned that the last gent I had started to work with as my mentor was killed in a motorcycle accident a few years back; and that since then I have not taken as consistently active a role in managing my career since then.


So, my question here is can someone recommend some resources on finding and working with a mentor? I am considering a couple of former managers as I feel that as a known quantity their advice might be a more specific than a third party mentor, but I also want to be able to get a second opinion if necessary.

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No help here, sorry . . . but we've certainly got a lot of IT folk on the DB here. I'll be surprised if you don't get some decent recommendations.

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Rotary or a civic organization, often attracts the best of the best. I've met some amazing people. A mentor can be anyone who has excelled in their life and has the ability to share their acquired wisdom.

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John Ranalletta

Jack Welch is no hero of mine, but I agree with this:

“Pairing up a young employee with a single mentor is one of the stupidest ideas around in management because the mentor may be a turkey."

I wrote the following to a client who inquired about mentoring a young exec on his team:

The primary issue that we take with most mentoring pairings is that the result of the mentoring is not defined in advance. We’d prefer that a person be assigned to a mentor once we’ve identified the exact, measurable results we want the pairing to achieve. That starts with a frank evaluation of the junior exec’s needs. That would include an evaluation of his professional assets as well as his personality profile.


What specific skills or attributes does the person need to advance? If the deficit or area to be mastered is in the professional assets group, i.e. specific skills, learning the corporation’s methods and practices, certification, etc., then assign the person to some-one who has that area mastered and can impart it to the junior - but that's not mentoring, it's training, pure and simple. We would establish milestones to tell us whether the person is learning or not.


On the behavioral assets side, if the the odds are low that the mentee can ever behave like the mentor, e.g. be assertive in the sales process; acclimate himself to long hours of intensive data analysis; deal with an ever-changing schedule rife with interruptions, etc.; don't waste money and human effort in mentoring.


Mentoring should be a targeted activity of defined duration with specific objectives and follow through. Too often, companies will make these matches; and, they can work very well, but often they fail to satisfy because the outcomes are too vaguely defined or not at all.

So, in the spirit of answering a question with questions, what do you want to this mentoring episode to achieve? How do you expect to behave differently when it's over? What will you know that you don't know now? Are your needs at a career level or talent level? Do you expect the mentor to provide answers or validate the answers you've already developed?

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Thanks for your input John.


I believe that I have the skills, or at least have practiced them in previous career paths although it has been several years since I have acted solely in that capacity. I am in a career area where I have never held a leadership position other than on short term projects, I have always been a technician since I started in information technology.


I am also looking for some assistance in mapping the KSAs that I would need to move THROUGH a front line manager position to the next position. I know I am lacking in those and that obtaining the skills for the second level (in this example) will make me a better candidate for the first.


Maybe I am more looking for a career coach/counselor than a mentor by definition?

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Matt,you have the first part done,you know where you want to go.

Find someone in your field that you respect, know he/she is a good leader,that has been there. Tell them what you are looking for and ask for their help.

Most will be flattered you asked and they will be willing to help.

Next part.. are you willing to listen and willing to implement their suggestions? Don't waste their time or yours if you are not really ready.

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I thhink its really cool that you are asking for help or guidance and wanting to expand. I cant help but I know if you keep putting the word out there, you will find what who and what you need. :thumbsup:

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Hi Matt,


There are a number of options for you -- mentoring being one, coaching another.


In addition to the previous comments, mentoring begins with three assumptions. The first is that the mentor has more knowledge than the mentee and that knowledge is what is needed by the mentee. The second is that the person playing the role of mentor, has the competence to bring the mentee along (not all knowledgeable people can teach, for example). The third is that the mentee is 'missing something' that can be acquired from another person -- it's a bit of a deficit model where you have the deficit.


Coaching is another approach all together. Coaching is based on many assumptions -- too many to list here. A couple critical ones are that the coachee has many capacities already (knowledge, skills, goals, etc.) yet, for some reasons, is stuck. Another, is that the coach does not assume superior knowledge in a field and therefore does not dispense advice nor technical expertise. Instead, the coach helps the coachee 'see' the possibilities before him / her, identify the assets and obstacles to achieve what is wanted and most importantly, to take take action.


I have received coaching (and mentoring) and found coaching to be an amazingly helpful relationship. I have studied and received certification as a 'life coach' and have several clients -- all of whom are professionals, very successful and, interestingly enough, unfulfilled.


I am not trolling for clients -- have too many now... but if you want to talk further, shoot me a pm and we'll set up a call. Better yet, ride up to Asheville!!

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When I moved to the U.S. some 30+ years ago, there were never any "mentors", per se. So I sought counsel from people within my industry (Financial services) who worked in my company, at our competitors or our regulators. I joined industry groups and networked. It also helps to look at the people within the company that are doing well. With and without "political" connections!


There is no shame in showing a lack of understanding. Noone knows everything. As a manager, I liked subordinates that were open and forthcoming, honestly interested and willing to learn. Doing this with several people allows you to separate "wheat from the chaff" which is your part of the mission! I tell young folks to be like a sponge, soak it all up and most of what you don't need will just drip out on its own :) !



Generally speaking, there is no ONE person that can assist you.

However, as others have stated, if you do decide to go this route hanging your hat on this person may well be detrimental to your career. Lots of "life coaches" around.....most of whom do not know your industry or your company. IMHO, too much reliance on others and too much self help leads to too much self examination and frequently turns the person myopic. Take a broader view....



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