Chief Executive Officers play a number of different roles in an organization. One of them may not be formally factored into their role, or exercised as often as it should be. I’m talking about the importance of being someone’s mentor. Yes, you, and yes, I realize you are busy. However, whether you realize it or not, or if you have not mentored someone in a while, perhaps you forgot about the fact you might get more out of this experience than the person you are mentoring.
I’m referring to the number one benefit of being able to assist and provide insightful guidance and direction to your mentee. Potentially in an entirely different manner than you would to your direct staff, and also those you lead on a daily basis in your CEO role.
Of course, I realize that CEO’s schedules are some of the most difficult to find an opening on, but without exception, it will be non-negotiable for you to find time each week on your schedule for the person or the individual’s you will be mentoring. I say will be mentoring, because after reading this article, either you, or someone who would like to be mentored by you will be connecting with one another.
As someone who naturally enjoys mentoring others, I can appreciate not everyone might be comfortable taking on the responsibility to do this. However, if you are the CEO, or in a leadership role, I need to remind you that you have a perhaps unwritten obligation to impart and share your experience with others. Possibly even unconventional mentees, such as ones who are at the very beginning of their careers. Or, perhaps in an entirely different industry. It’s also probable, you might find yourself mentoring a newly minted CEO. They certainly would benefit from your experience.
So, is there a particular method for finding a mentee or CEO mentor? Not really, as there are numerous approaches someone could take to find one or the other. For example, asking people in your network if they could connect you to their CEO would be one way to get started. In fact, it might be easier to ask a CEO to mentor you, than a CEO to approach you to ask if you would like to be mentored by them.
I consider it one of the highest honors when someone asks me to be their mentor. I also take full responsibility for being completely engaged and willing to be vulnerable with sharing what I have learned with the people I have, and am currently mentoring. Although it may be uncomfortable, no topic is off limits to those I am mentoring. Of course, not everyone might subscribe to this level of openness, but I consider it to be one of my signature mentoring style characteristics.
Since I am the type of person who is very comfortable with ambiguity, I also can appreciate that others may not be. Don’t get me wrong, I also like a certain amount of structure, but I also have a high level of flexibility which affords me being able to have a less structured mentoring approach. Some might call it casual, but I think of it as being authentic, and it supports my level of how I enjoy interacting with others. Especially those I am mentoring.
If you were to dissect my career, one of your findings would be that the greatest joy I have found in leading others was to be looked at as someone they could trust, want to follow and most importantly learn from and model their professional behavior after. Some of my greatest and most precious memories come from when I helped someone I was mentoring, and when they have what I’ll call a “light-bulb” moment. In other words, by working together, my mentee reaches a moment in time when they are able to figure out and learn from me, but are able to customize what they have learned, and apply it to their respective situation they are working on.
Given the fact most CEO’s reading this article will not likely, or in general reach out to a mentee, I ask you to consider doing the following:
- Please be open to a request or multiple ones from people who might want to be mentored by you.
- You clearly establish what the guidelines entail for being mentored by you.
- Determine what aspects of your experiences are going to be the most impactful for the person or people you are mentoring.
- Considering you are likely goal oriented, factor in what the goal or goals will be for your mentee. Please keep in mind that some mentees may be part of your mentoring experience for various lengths of time. Some may in fact be mentored by you for years, while others might only require a short mentoring stint with you.
- Mentoring someone is both an honor and privilege, and realistically, someone either formally or informally mentored you. If they didn’t, consider yourself to be fortunate to have arrived in your role without the enormous benefits mentoring can provide someone.
If you are wondering how to approach a CEO to mentor you, one of my earlier suggestions was to ask someone who might know a CEO if they would introduce you to them. If you do not know anyone who knows a CEO, here are some possible ways of finding and reaching out to one.
- Factor in whether you will gain more benefit from a CEO who is at a small company, mid-size one, or at a large enterprise.
- Determine if you would benefit more from someone who is in your industry, or whether there would potentially be more to learn from someone outside of it.
- Is the geographic location of where the CEO is a factor? Will you have difficulties due to drastic time zone differences, or perhaps cultural ones depending on which country you each live in?
- Does it matter how much CEO experience they have to you?
- Would it matter if the CEO is a male or a female?
- With the basic considerations behind you, you can begin your CEO mentor research on-line. Most of you reading this are on LinkedIn, but if you are not, I highly recommend you start there.
- Depending on how many people you have in your LinkedIn network, may hinder or support your quest to find your CEO mentor. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have many people in your network. Chances are good someone in it has access to at least one CEO. Begin there, and first ask for an introduction to your connection who knows this person.
- Once you have identified which CEO’s you want to approach to mentor you; please limit it to one or two, and then craft your note to ask them if they would consider mentoring you.
- Make sure your mentoring inquiry note to the CEO is well thought through in terms of your ask. One of the main things to focus on is your “why” you would like to be mentored by them.
- Also factor in what you may have to offer the CEO. If you are considerably younger, or perhaps in a different industry or geography, think about the unique perspectives you could offer them based on your generational and current industry or location experience.
- When the CEO agrees to mentor you, and you embark upon your mentoring journey, keep in mind to be both authentic and respectful of the opportunity to engage and learn from one another.
- Please leave your biases and pre-conceived notions about one another at the door. I guarantee you will be surprised by each other’s knowledge.
Although mentoring is often considered a one-way situation, it should be a bi-directional learning opportunity for both the mentor and mentee. Not all of the time, but as often as possible, as we can always learn someone from another person. Enjoy the journey as both a mentor and mentee.
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