Mentoring is about more than just offering advice; it’s about sharing your current best thinking. The phrase “my current best thinking is…” allows mentors to share their insights without claiming to have all the answers. This approach is like a cheat code to life. It gives mentees concrete advice based on the mentor’s experience, which can be incredibly valuable.

When giving advice, it’s also helpful to frame it as your own perspective by starting with “for me…” and then encouraging the mentee to consider how it might apply to them by asking, “How might that look different for you?” or “What am I missing?” This not only shares your best advice but also ensures that it resonates authentically with the mentee.

Meg Bulger introduced the idea of using phrases like “for me” to encourage inclusivity. Acknowledging that experiences and perceptions vary from person to person adds depth and empathy to the advice given.

What Skills Do You Gain from Mentoring

As a mentor, you learn from each interaction. You develop your language and analogies, much like a comedian hones their jokes through multiple performances. Through mentoring, you test your ideas and learn which ones have lasting impact, repeating what works and discarding what doesn’t. It’s a way to refine your communication and teaching skills over time.

Mentoring also expands your leadership skills by offering new perspectives. Great mentors are great listeners and can empathize with their mentees, which, in turn, helps mentors see their own careers and organizations in a new light.

Roger Shank, one of the old-school founders of AI, described intelligence as the number of cases in your brain. Mentoring allows you to accumulate these cases, enhancing your intelligence and ability to apply past solutions to new problems.

How to Find a Mentor

To find a mentor outside of a formal program, start by identifying people you’re curious about on platforms like LinkedIn. Reach out with specific, low-commitment questions about their experiences. Avoid asking directly for mentorship, as this can be an overwhelming request. Instead, seek advice or perspective on a particular topic to start a conversation.

Before you begin your search, however, ask yourself what you want to learn and what you need from a mentor. Define the qualities you’re looking for. This preparation ensures that your mentorship is focused on learning, which should be the foundation of the relationship.

The Difference Between Mentoring and Coaching

The distinction between mentoring and coaching may not be universally agreed upon, and perhaps, the debate on defining them isn’t the most important task. However, there are practical differences. Mentoring is characterized by reciprocity, co-creation, and learning. In contrast, coaching doesn’t necessarily include the co-creation of the relationship or the element of reciprocity. While coaches can benefit from the relationship, the primary purpose of coaching is not mutual growth, as it is in mentoring.

In summary, mentoring is a two-way street, a relationship where both parties grow and learn. It’s about sharing life’s cheat codes and accumulating wisdom through a variety of cases. When looking for a mentor, focus on what you want to learn and approach potential mentors with curiosity and specific questions. Understand that mentoring and coaching, while overlapping, have distinct dynamics, with mentoring offering a more reciprocal relationship.