When I was a C‑level executive in a quickly growing company, I felt I was missing something. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I felt like I had an imposter’s complex.
Some days, I would think, “is today the day they figure out that I don’t know what I’m doing?”
A lot of executives I work with have the same feeling. They fear they are going to be “found out.” In that fear, many executives start to reach out to mentors and advisors for help.
When I reached out to potential mentors and advisors, I had a lot of people who knew the emotional buttons to push. They knew my insecurities. I’m guessing they had seen the insecurities many times before. There are four main points you need to remember as your select your mentor.
1. The law of thirds.
Working with a mentor, the relationship is usually split into three parts.
The first third of a relationship with the mentor is awesome. The mentor asks spectacular questions, shifts your paradigm, and helps you go deeper. In the middle third of the relationship, you hope the spark and magic returns. The last third of the relationship, you want to strangle them.
If your mentor has “been there and done that,” they know about the journey ahead. They have experienced highs and the lows. They know how to predict and prepare for the growth. They have the credibility to help you understand the issues that growth will cause.
2. Unlocking vs. Gridlocking
Oftentimes as mentors or advisors come in, we feel like they’re unlocking. They are unlocking ideas, passions and skills we didn’t know existed.
As they move to the middle third or the last third, they start to gridlock. Every time we turn the channel, there they are again. They have run out of plays to help grow and mature you.
3. The Three Part Harmony
The best mentors understand the three part harmony. Here’s the recipe for the perfect harmony: 1 part mentor, 1 part peer and 1 part psychologist.
The mentor part is easy to define. They’ve been there, done that. They have the desire to share their knowledge. They’re willing to come alongside, sometimes carry, sometimes get behind, and sometimes get out in front. They know when to do which one.
A peer is someone that you relate with well. They have earned your trust and respect. Sometimes you need a true mentor, but sometimes you just need a peer.
Psychologists help you do a sanity check. They are somebody that can help you understand and read the situation. Sometimes you need that mentor. Sometimes you need that peer. Sometimes you need a psychologist that can understand the three part harmony.
The last and most important aspect of a mentor or advisor is accountability. The lack of accountability drove me crazy as an executive.
An accountable advisor should be willing to say, “If I can’t get the results, you don’t pay.” This causes the advisor to look ahead and hold YOU accountable, too. If they can’t help, they should step away. They shouldn’t “find” ways to help to get paycheck.
I wish you luck in finding a great mentor or advisor. It’s incredibly valuable.
Most successful CEOs and other executives have mentors. They have people that they trust. They don’t put everything in that basket. However, it is a basket that they pull in closely. They know that they’re going to need it at some point. You’re going to need it too.