I am of the opinion that we should all be both!
I can just see the startled eyes all around the world as that particular statement was read.
The fact of the matter is that even the great gurus like Dr. John Demartini, or Tony Robbins, or T Harv Eker, or closer to home, Brian Walsh, all have their own gurus.
So what’s it all about?
Firstly let’s get into the difference between a mentor and a sponsor, which incidentally, we should also all have at least one.
A mentor is someone who guides you through the process, be that at the office in a corporate environment or even if you’re on your own. It’s about learning the ropes.
Sponsorship is about someone who is in a high or influential position, who has seen your potential, and who will recommend you. There are many times when you don’t even know who your sponsor is. Here’s the thing though, even if you don’t know who they are, best you take notice that someone has recommended you or referred you and best you make the most of the opportunity because they will be watching you quietly in the wings and if you don’t perform, you will not get an opportunity from them again.
Ok, so now let’s get back to the ‘why’ of mentoring.
“Mentoring” seems to be one of the latest buzzwords that are going around, but the reality is that it has been around for centuries. Artists, philosophers, and warriors often took those who were inexperienced under their wing, and showed them the ropes or trained them to follow in their footprints. It’s well documented throughout history.
Why is it so important to have a mentor?
The simple truth is that it is the easiest and simplest way to transfer skills and use “experience” to upskill and advance others in their careers. It’s about sharing your knowledge and experience with others.
Mentoring itself can be split into two distinct categories. Formal and informal.
Informal mentorships are usually about relationships and they develop spontaneously.
These relationships usually continue throughout the lives of the mentor and mentee, irrespective of where they may be employed, or whether they get married, or even if they have moved away.
Formal mentoring on the other hand is usually an assigned relationship and whilst it is often brought about by organizational programs that are designed to promote employee development, this is not always the case as entrepreneurs may seek mentors both on and offline.
In the instances where it is an employee development type situation, newcomers are able to learn about the company and how it operates as well as any ‘unwritten’ rules that may be part of the company’s culture.
The idea, irrespective of whether it is a formal or informal or corporate or small business owner, is that the mentor will help you and even train you to work smarter, whilst the sponsor will help you to fulfill your potential more quickly, which will allow you to achieve your goals faster.
Some of the questions that you should ask yourself before settling for a mentor are (but not limited to):
1. What sort of person would be the right mentor for me?
2. Would I be able to respect and trust this person?
3. Why do I want a mentor? What exactly do I want to achieve by being mentored?
4. Who would be able to listen to my ideas or fears, without judgment, whilst at the same time, guiding me and not instructing me?
5. Where would I find a potential mentor?
In a formal mentorship-type program, there are usually mentors that are made available within the organization. There would also be documented goals and schedules for training and of course an evaluation. Remember the old adage of “if you don’t measure it you can’t manage it?” Well, it is certainly very true about your mentorship. If you’re not progressing then clearly something is wrong.
In an informal type of mentorship, you could find a suitable match in an immediate supervisor or boss.
The onus would be on you, however, to stress your goal or desired outcome and then set up some rules in terms of when the meetings will take place and the evaluation that must take place to assess your progress.
Remember your mentor is giving, not only their expertise but also their time. Be respectful and mindful of their time. Do your assignments timeously and keep the diary and the minutes up to date.
Good luck on this journey and enjoy the experience.