Finding a mentor may not be that difficult, but finding the right one could be. It all starts with understanding the benefits of mentoring, then determining what specifically you need and want from the relationship. Are you looking for better performance out of the team you’re leading? Do you want to learn how to present ideas more persuasively to your boss? Once goals are identified, it’s easier to seek out the appropriate mentor.
“Target people who have skills that you think will complement and help you enhance your own,” said Sandy Botcher, vice president of the Disability Income department at Northwestern Mutual and a big proponent of mentoring.
The skills potential mentors possess don’t necessarily have to be directly related to the subject matter of your job, according to a study by Development Dimensions International (DDI).
“In most mentoring relationships, it is not subject matter and technical expertise with which mentees struggle,” the study’s authors noted. “It’s the core leadership skills like influencing, working through problems, negotiation and interpersonal skills with which less-experienced professionals most often need help.”
A young woman Botcher has been mentoring for two years was recently promoted. She’s now working in an area that’s going through lots of change. Botcher expects her mentee will be putting a key lesson from their sessions to the test.
“It’s one of the things that I’ve been helping her with—her change agility—because I thought she could be a little bit more flexible and proactive in her approach,” she said. “So when I know how much she’s been focused on working on that area of leadership and the action steps she took, to see her get this new job was so exciting for me, and obviously for her as well.”
In the LinkedIn study, 34 percent of female Baby Boomers, 43 percent of Gen X women and 51 percent of Gen Y women said they had been mentored by a woman. Botcher, who was a practicing attorney before joining Northwestern Mutual, said there weren’t many women in the law office to mentor her. She knows that many women in similar situations may have doubts about asking a male co-worker—with whom they believe they have less in common—to be their mentor.
Yet, Botcher advised, you shouldn’t limit your mentor search to your own gender.
“I don’t personally believe that’s necessary,” she said. “I have both male and female mentors, and I’m mentoring people who are diverse in many respects—and certainly gender is one of those. I think the diversity in the mentoring relationship is actually healthy for the mentor and the mentee.”
If you’ve targeted someone you believe would be your ideal mentor but are uncomfortable approaching that person, consider enlisting a trusted co-worker to make the introduction.
“I’ve had a lot of colleagues who have brokered mentoring relationships for others,” Botcher said. “They’ve worked with some of the people they’ve wanted to help grow and thought that I had the right skill sets to help do that.”
Once an introduction is made, it’s important to ensure the relationship is mutually beneficial. To that end, Botcher suggested the following mentoring tips:
1. Be open. Aim for an easygoing connection and candid conversation.
2. Set goals. Go in with some specific objectives in mind.
3. Take it seriously. It’s not just coffee. Respect your mentor’s time and be thoughtful about the work you’re doing.
In general, Botcher believes women business leaders should be more vocal about encouraging mentoring relationships. “I know what they have done for me,” she said, “and I know that we need to be spreading the power of those types of relationships to touch as many people as we possibly can.”
Read original article at Forbes.