Tuesday, 05 March 2019
Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Sara Blakely. All self-made billionaires, but that’s not all they have in common: they all attribute a portion of their success to the invaluable guidance and support of a treasured business mentor. Here we share some of the best mentoring advice from influential people across the globe.
TIPS FROM MENTEES, FOR MENTEES
LET THE RELATIONSHIP EVOLVE AT ITS OWN PACE
“Ms Blacknall and I started working together as ‘strictly business’. But then she started to consistently check up on me because she knew I was going through some hard times. Sometimes I didn’t want to confront challenges I was having, but she worked with me to accept reality and grow from my experiences. Because of her, I re-enrolled in college and have dreams of going to graduate school.”
Diamond Douglas, College Undergraduate, Washington DC, US
EXPECT TO GET HOMEWORK!
“As I was trying to get more comfortable with my speaking skills and interviewing, [my mentor] Alisa gave me an assignment. I was to use my research skills to find out information on Alisa and report back what I found when we spoke again. I was assigned this as a way of seeing how I research a future employer prior to an interview. This was to help establish more confidence and knowledge by planning and preparing ahead of time.”
Jessica Freid, Law Graduate, Philadelphia, US
IF YOU DON’T ASK, YOU DON’T GET!
“My background is in Nanotechnology, so i’ve had to be proactive in seeking advice on building digital tech products. Whenever I meet someone with the experience in areas I’m trying to grow in, I will simply ask whether they would mind having their brain picked when I hit a stumbling block. Nobody - yet - has said no to my requests for mentorship, and I can now rely on a few brilliant minds at companies like Google and Swiftkey, as well as a couple of serial entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds.”
Miriam Keshani, Head Of Product, Sparrho, Cambridge, UK
YOU CAN BE MENTORED FROM AFAR – BY SOMEONE YOU’VE NEVER MET!
“Dad [gave me a cassette of motivational speaker Wayne Dyer’s series How to be a no-limit person and] told me, ‘I wish I had listened to this when I was your age instead of being 40 when I discovered it’. I started listening to it, and it was the right set of circumstances in my life [I had seen a close friend run down by a car and my parents had separated] that I was open to really wanting to listen to it. Dyer’s messaging was simple, but it hadn’t really ever been told to me that way. I mean, we go to school and everyone teaches us what to think, but nobody teaches us how to think. It became a running joke among my friends that nobody wanted to end up in my car because they would have to listen to the motivational tapes. Fast-forward all these years later, and I get on the cover of Forbes. My friends from high school texted me and all they wrote was, ‘I should have listened to those tapes’.”
Sara Blakely, Founder, Spanx, Florida, US
CHOOSE A MENTOR WHO DISAGREES WITH YOU
“The advice that I give most often is a piece of advice that was given to me – and now I’m passing it on. When I got into Stanford, my mentor wrote me an email and I still have it. It says: “We find comfort amongst those who agree with us, but we find growth amongst those who don’t.”
Najla Al-Midfa, Board Member, United Arab Bank, United Arab Emirates
TIPS FROM MENTORS, FOR MENTORS
THE MORE YOU GIVE, THE MORE ENRICHED YOU’LL BE
“Diamond gives me life. What started out as a transactional relationship has blossomed into something so much more. Every time she has a victory or passes a life milestone, it reinvigorates me. She has the hope, drive, and desire to succeed, and, as a mentor, it’s my role to guide her to the path that will allow her to achieve her goals. I wouldn’t say mentoring her is rewarding - it’s so much more than that. I feel full, I feel blessed.”
Tiffany Blacknall, Analyst, Educating First Consulting, Washington DC, US
UNDERSTAND YOUR MENTEE’S WORLD AND WHAT THEY BEST RELATE TO
“[As a teacher I found it] challenging to teach the concept of leadership to Emiratis. They immediately think it means success. For them, the concept of teamwork was hard. They all wanted to be the leader and didn't understand they needed one strong leader while other people had roles like playing negotiator and others doing different tasks they were good at. [A Dubai-based television series, Abla Noora, about a headmistress who leads her school to success, proved to be a successful resource.] The girls could reflect upon it and since they were at school, they could see and discuss and compare things on screen with what was happening in their own school. [Teaching the concept of charisma was also hard, not least because there is no word for it in Arabic.] By seeing Abla Noora, they could understand. Using film stimulates students. It helps them try to connect things to their own reality and environment.”
Aisha Hamdoon Al Naqbi, Counsellor, Higher Colleges of Technology Ras Al Khaimah, Dubai
TIPS FROM MENTORS, FOR MENTEES
DON’T GET TOO HUNG UP ON LABELS
“The best mentors are often women that you establish a relationship with, that you find a connection with. And then it develops – and it takes on its own natural progression. And some of the best mentors you might never have the conversation about whether or not you’re a mentor or a mentee. But you know it – and they play that role for you, and they’re happy to do so.”
Wendy Cukier, Vice President Research & Innovation, Diversity Institute Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
BE CLEAR WHAT YOU WANT FROM A MENTOR – AND USE EVERY SECOND WISELY
“Don’t just ask someone, ‘Will you be my mentor?’ Be precise about the problem you need help with. For example, you might ask someone to meet with you an hour each month to help improve your presentation skills. Or you might ask to have coffee once a month to help you research a career change. Mentors who know what the expectation is can be realistic about their ability to help.
Come to every conversation with objectives and a list of questions you hope to cover. You might even share these in advance so your mentor has time to prepare. Even more important is following up on the advice your mentor took the time to give you.”
Leyla Seka, Senior Vice President, Desk.com, California, US