Reading this week’s Sunday New York Times, I came across an article by reporter Adam Bryant featuring U.S. Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James. He asked her “What’s your advice on how to get a mentor?”
Here’s part of Deborah’s reply:
A mentor can be anybody in your environment, but it tends to be somebody older than you and somebody who’s done things that you aspire to do.
What I tell people, and I’ve done this myself, is that if you see somebody like this, just introduce yourself and ask them if they would be willing at some point to sit down and have a cup of coffee with you and tell their story of what worked for them, what didn’t work, and how their story unfolded in life and how they got to be where they are today. I find that 95 percent of people will give you a half hour and a cup of coffee.
When you are starting out as an entrepreneur, there is a steep learning curve. You are the chief inspiration officer, the chief operating officer and the collections officer all rolled into one. You only know what you know and some of the roles can be intimidating if you’ve never walked the walk before.
Mentorship can offer you:
Perhaps you have been so involved with a problem you can’t see the solution because you are too close to all the drama attached to the problem. A mentor can just look at the facts of the problem, cut to the core of the problem and suggest solutions.
Sometimes a mentor is a just a sounding board who listens to your problem solutions and helps to evaluate different scenarios.
Entrepreneurs need to work in their business on a daily basis, to gain traction, but don’t necessarily work on the right things. A mentor can add value by helping to focus entrepreneurs on aspects of their business that need attention.
Sharing your business goals with a mentor is a great idea because the mentor can provide the accountability to help you make these goals come to fruition.
In different stages of my business life I have sought out mentors. They all had the insight I lacked, in areas in which I wanted to improve. I would not have had the same level of success without their help.