Along the lines of my last post, I've been talking with some folks about business mentoring. Based on those conversations, I have a strawman set of ideas I'd like to float out there:
Mentoring is about intent
Start the relationship with your mentor understanding what each of you intends to give and get in this equation. It is even more powerful if you write down the intended results and what each person is committing to do (or not do) in the relationship.
Mentoring is not aimless conversation
Mentoring is best when focused on a particular improvement area, or a series of finite focus areas. For example, if you have one aspect of your life or skills you'd like to be coached on, decide on a goal for that area and focus on it until you consider it "done enough" to close it off, then move to the next area of focus.
Mentoring is about openness
If you are the mentor, be open and direct with the "mentee." If you are the mentee, remember that you asked for this help and try to apply what your mentor is suggesting.
It may take a while to build mutual trust, so stick with it for a bit if it feels uncomfortable at first.
Mentoring should not be vague or scary
If you are seeking a mentor, don't get too caught up in the "I'm not worthy" trap. Writing down a specific thing (or things) you would like to learn from the mentor will make this easier for both parties.
Review your objectives with your prospective mentor so they can let you know whether they can really help.
If you are asked to be a mentor, don't get too caught up in the "I'm not worthy" trap. You're being asked out of respect (and admiration), and you probably have some good perspective to share.
Mentoring is about commitment and mutual value
Don't enter into a mentoring relationship lightly. Both sides must commit to the relationship and do their part to keep it productive and on course. In a productive mentoring relationship, you should walk away from each meeting feeling energized and supported, even though you may also feel challenged and humble.
Those are some of my observations so far. I'd love your input on other aspects, omissions, or things you think I've gotten wrong.
Also, one of the things I haven't cracked the code on just yet:
How do you find a great mentor?
I've been fortunate in my life in that I find myself in the midst of Great people and have been able to get some great mentoring along the way. Maybe it's just "tuning my radio to the right frequency" and I listen to the mentor channel. I don't know.
For those of you that have sought your own mentors and found them, what worked?