Originally inspired by an article by Glenn Leibowitz, McKinsey's Head of Communications, this post is about the value of mentorship from multiple people. Describing mentors as sources of inspiration, a “sounding board for working through tough problems” and a “safe space for sharing aspirations and fears”, Glenn says “you need to build a personal board of advisors” as if you were leading your own company.
As an actual company, Protagion has a board of advisors, and their ongoing counsel is invaluable to us. Whether offering advice from a professional perspective, sharing psychological insights, providing their thoughts on executive coaching, giving us strategic advice, or supplying marketing and technological expertise, each of our diverse advisors has helped in immeasurable ways. Similarly, many new organisations speak of how valuable a broad range of inputs can be in steering them past pitfalls, and keeping them motivated.
So, we'd like to thank publicly all of our advisors (current and past) for the major contribution you've made to our progress so far – we wouldn't be where we are without you.
Back to Glenn's views on sourcing mentors for your career: “Finding mentors can be tough... and when you do find them, no single mentor is likely to have the ability to help you in all aspects... That's why you should consider assembling your own personal board of advisors comprised of several different mentors.”
His article references a piece in the MIT Sloan Management Review “Assembling Your Personal Board of Advisors”, which concluded with three recommendations on how to do this:
1) “Develop self-awareness” for example through “journals, learning logs and after-action reviews”, “relationships with those who can act as sounding boards”, and “self-assessment instruments”. Building a valuable board of advisors requires you to understand well your strengths, weaknesses, needs and goals.
2) “Broaden membership on your personal board” as it is “important to have a diversified network” with strong “members from multiple sources”. The study also notes that “having high-quality relationships across differences is important in order to secure a diversity of opinions, information and knowledge that can be sustained over the long run”.
3) “Allow your network to evolve and change” as your career and life unfold, including as you “change roles, occupations, industries or organisations or relocate to different countries”.
Eric Barker, author of “Barking Up The Wrong Tree” (the blog and the book), also shares advice about picking, contacting and maintaining relationships with the right mentors. He’s a fan of mentors outside your current organisation, illustrating this with: “If you’re a star do you think your company is going to tell you when it’s time to move on to greener pastures?” He also believes that “you need objectivity and you need someone who can give you advice that’s valuable over the long haul”.
Some of Eric’s posts reference a book by Daniel Coyle (“The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Skills”*) which describes desirable characteristics for mentors, including:
a) someone who scares you a little
i. because they watch you closely to figure you out: what you want, where you’re coming from, what motivates you
ii. because they are action-oriented, wanting to jump into things immediately rather than spending a lot of time chatting
iii. because they are honest and direct, telling you the truth about your performance in clear language, which can sting at first, but over time you’ll come to see it’s not personal – it’s what you can take to heart in order to get better
b) someone who gives short, clear directions, guiding you to a target, rather than long-winded speeches
c) someone who loves teaching (seemingly small) fundamentals, like how you grip a golfclub or pluck a single note on a guitar
Other thoughts on mentorship from Eric:
He also encourages us to be “polygamous here – you need multiple mentors to cover the various areas of life”.
Glenn’s original article can be found here: https://www.inc.com/glenn-leibowitz/1-mentor-isnt-enough-you-need-to-build-a-personal-board-of-advisers.html
Eric's posts can be found here:
* Protagion is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk. The links with * participate in this programme.