Three Blazing Red Flags that you DON'T have a Mentor
Most young leaders want a mentor. They want guidance. They want help. When they look for their first “real job” a boss who is also a mentor is a key factor in their decision process. Young leaders typically want someone who will influence and help guide their leadership and lives professionally and personally to help them avoid potential pitfalls. As a young leader, you can easily be confused and think that just because you are meeting with someone that you are being mentored. However, many young leaders find themselves in weekly meetings with bosses who are more interested in being coaches or just bosses when they promised mentorship up front. Here are three blazing red flags to watch out for if you are banking on someone to mentor you:
1. Mentors listen. If you are in the interview process and mentorship is important to you (AND IT SHOULD BE!!!) then ask to meet one on one with the person or people who would be directly responsible for that mentorship. Offer to take them out to coffee or lunch. It may not be convenient to them, but if you are in the final rounds of interviewing, and mentorship is on your agenda, it’s important that you get some one on one contact with the person. When you sit down to meet, you want to know if the person is willing to listen. Does he engage with what you are talking about? Does he seem to listen when you are talking or does he use that time to plan out his next line of comments? I would fail this test personally because I am not a great listener. So maybe I am not a fantastic mentor. Great mentors teach but they also listen because every great teacher listens.
2. Mentors are someone you want to follow. Your mentor should be someone who can guide you to where you want to go. If your future mentor is a person of poor moral character you will find it difficult to value his input in your life. Look at his social media pages, talk to a few people who already work with him, find out if his personal life matches his public life. Leadership is 80% character. If your mentor lacks character you won’t be able to trust his leadership in your life. You won’t have a mentor. Instead you will have a pointless meeting on your calendar.
3. Mentors are reliable. Your mentor should be dependable. If this is a long-term mentorship then you should not have to worry about him canceling on you. This is important to you, but if legacy is not important to him then you will not get his best. The currency of priority is reliability. If you can, ask a new mentor what his schedule looks like and ask how your time with him would fit into it. If he has a time slot all picked out for you and is prepared to defend it and give it priority that’s awesome. If he says he is really busy but thinks he can make time for your meetings one morning maybe every other month then he may not be reliable. He may not be a bad mentor but this may be the wrong season of life for him to meet or talk with you. You may need to look for a mentor someplace else.
In conclusion, don’t let yourself get tricked into believing you have a mentor when you don’t. Just because you have a meeting on your schedule with someone who said he plans to mentor you doesn’t mean he will. A great mentor is someone who listens, has character you respect, and is reliable. I am sure you can tack many other characteristics onto this list, but these three are nonnegotiable. When looking for your next long or short-term mentor, don’t be afraid to go into it with some basic qualifications. The mentor will have some for you. It is only fair that you have some for him. You are letting him speak into, guide, and influence your life so choose wisely.
Do you think there are other essential qualifications of a mentor? Comment below and let me know what you think!
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