This week’s blog is a guest post from James Oakley about how to get and keep mentorship.
I first met James at a Business Accelerator conference in 2013 but he got in touch with me more recently because he wanted to perhaps sense check his way forward as he changed his focus for a new business. He had identified selling as his key weakness – something I am proud to say is one of my storongest skill sets and one which throughout my career I have relentlessly aimed to practice and be professional regarding each customised approach I make. My no-nonsense approach can sometimes be tough to take, but for others it’s what brings them to me. I’m not known for mincing my words and if you can be thick skinned enough to accept criticism I know my advice helps. I very rarely mentor in a one-to-one situation, and only when someone approaches with the kind of respect, flexibility and persistence which James consistently applied – always giving to get.
Remembering time is money I am very careful about the promises I make. Nevertheless I also am very concious of the fact that during my career when I have bravely approached much more qualified individuals than I, they have generously spared time for me. I usually try and give back by speaking to groups of people where I can provide the most value.
Irrespective, James and I had a few calls, exchanged the odd email and I was really pleased to hear from James lately to say that his new venture, James Oakley Media, was going well. Having successfully persuaded me to mentor him when so many others have failed, I asked him to write this guest post for my blog in the hope that it may help others in a similar position.
1. Put yourself in the position to gain mentorship
Make contact. Don’t be afraid to call, email, send a handwritten letter or something of value in the mail if you need to. If the answer is no, ask or identify why. Go away, fix what’s needed and come back stronger.
Be persistent but always courteous and respectful of a person’s time.
2. Give something of value in return
Add value to your relationship as early as possible. It might be you giving lots of value before you receive any back. This is ok. It will help you prime and prepare yourself in knowledge areas and gives a potential mentor a reason to consider spending time with you.
You might be the one looking for mentorship but you should want to make it as close to a 50-50 relationship as possible. 50-50 is often not possible, but if you know you can add any kind of value at all to their life, you’ll increase your chances of them wanting or being willing to spend time with you. Highly successful people are always looking to learn more, close gaps in their knowledge and get up to speed and ahead in new areas.
3. Show you want to learn from them with your actions
One of the thing I’ve found which makes me really happy is that entrepreneurs love to give back and see the difference they’re making. I’ve been lucky enough to have been mentored by entrepreneurs who I’ve seen glowing as they’ve seen my progress. From telephone sales quality to a new client. I’ve also been fortunate enough to pass on my own knowledge to people and seen the effects of my advice on their business. It’s a great feeling.
Show them that you’re picking up their traits in your business work, and make them know they’re having a positive impact. It’s only going to be a good thing for you to mimic highly successful people. Show them you’re exceptional and have the ability to make huge leaps with their guidance.
4. Implement the advice you’re given relentlessly!!!
There is no point having a mentor if you’re not going to implement the advice you’re given and make it valuable. You’re just wasting your time otherwise. Act fast and implement like there is no tomorrow. There’s a reason your mentor probably has an extra zero in the end of their yearly profit accounts compared to you. And as with point 4, a mentor won’t be sticking around for long if they see you’re not implementing anything you’ve discussed.
5. Choose someone who shares your values/ethics/personality
I make sure to try to spend time with people who share on a basic level the same values as me. I’m not talking about being a Brexit supporter or Remainer – but in terms of the type of business you want to run.
For example I want to spend as much time as possible with owners of ethical businesses, who give back, and have premium products/services that can change peoples lives for the better, rather than a cheap product or service which simply leads in the race to the bottom.
6. Be appreciative and make the relationship easy.
This comes back round to persistence. Make it easy for a mentor to mentor you. Be available when they’re available, even if it’s 4am. If they say they prefer remarking on your documents in Microsoft Word, then make sure you always send them in Microsoft Word! You don’t need to be a doormat, but realise the value you’re getting and make sure you’re in every position to receive it.
7. Say thank you.
Time is valuable. Say thank you to those giving who give theirs to you.
Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself.Getting mentorship may be something you pay for. Think of this as investing in yourself. I’ve invested in some kind of training for myself at least a couple of times each year for the last 7 years and can comfortably say the returns have far exceeded the cost of investment.