At that meeting I asked him what he was looking for in a mentor. His reply was succinct and to the point:
- knowledge and experience in leadership and related issues
- someone who would stretch his thinking
- absolute confidentiality
- someone who was prepared to think "outside the box" - especially outside of mining!
- not a "yes man"
- total honesty - if I thought he was speaking bovine excrement, tell him!
- regular face-to-face meetings plus regular scheduled telephone contact
- unlimited access by phone or meeting when an urgent issue arose and relating to which he wanted outside opinion
We agreed to give it a try and my work as a mentor had suddenly started! Today that same man is a director of several public companies and Chairman of at least one. I still get phone calls from time to time.
These days "mentoring" has become a buzz word and there are myriad mentoring services available - some even in unexpected arenas such as the family (see, for example, http://www.m-for-m.com.au which provides mentoring to parents of new born babies) - because the concept has proved itself as an extremely valuable aid in helping people learn, grow, and become more effective.
So what is mentoring?
I like the definition given by Bozeman Feeny in 2007: "mentoring is a process for transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protege)."
Back in the 1980's a writer named Christopher Meyer said: "a leader uses only one tool: him or herself. Like any other tool, the more we know the tool's potential and limitations, the more effectively we can use it. Leadership is therefore dependent on self-knowledge and awareness."
Do you constantly seek to know more about your potential and limitations? As Meyer says, in the long-term, you as a person are really the only tool you have.
Mentoring can help you become a better leader.
More information about Douglas Long at http://www.dglong.com