How and Why to Seek an Executive Mentor

The paths toward truly quality leadership are many; however one that seemingly gets easily bypassed is that of seeking out executive mentorship, especially in the case of experienced executives.  Yet, what better way to fine tune your skills than learning from someone who has actually traveled the same particular road you are about to encroach upon?

Why do executives seek out mentors?

In essence, it does not matter how seasoned you actually are.  When you enter a new office or work environment, you’re automatically at a potential disadvantage because you are not familiar with the terrain of the company.

Mentoring - execs If you have chosen to team up with one of the current most skilled executives in a new setting, be sure to maximize your access to their knowledge.  They understand the internal politics and the pitfalls; they can help you chart a course through the dangerous waters of being “the newbie”.

Getting started

The process of finding a mentor may vary.  There are available online services, such as, which actually match entrepreneurs with mentors.  Other times, you may find you meet a mentor on the job or through a network contact.

Whether you choose a mentor who is internal or external to your current organization, there are some standard reasons for seeking executive mentorship.  Sometimes it is just a question of being new to the game and looking for a strong role model to emulate.  In other cases, it’s a question of having some potentially great ideas, but needing someone to consult with before formally presenting them.

Maximizing gains

Joining up with the first willing person to get you through the early days may be a good idea; as you may actually find yourself working with a few different mentors along way, since the diversified knowledge and experience can be quite advantageous.  Ultimately, you should aim for a mentor who will help you to be clear and resolute with yourself on the basis and reasons for your goals.

Some questions to consider when choosing your mentor are:

  • Do they work within your field or industry?
  • How and when will they be accessible to you?
  • What was their path to success?
  • Will they provide you with sincere and helpful feedback?

Gaining skills

In some instances, a mentor may possess certain specific skills that you want to develop within yourself; maybe they have access to certain connections who may be beneficial to your own network, which could in turn, make you more useful to the company.  Perhaps they are planning to retire or move on soon, and specifically need to get you up to speed to take over their position.

Mentoring may also play a part in your professional longevity.  According to a recent Emerging Workforce Study, 35 percent of employees who did not receive or seek mentoring services had plans to seek new employment within one year.

Correcting deficiencies

Another circumstance may be that you feel you are not meeting the expectations of your employer.  Sometimes a mentor can help you regain your focus, or simply redirect your attention to more productive and profitable areas.  It may be a simple case of some behavioral changes that will get you moving in the right direction again.

Listen and learn

Don’t be afraid to utilize your mentor’s advice.  Naturally not everything they say will always be personally useful to you, however if you chose wisely, you will come away with some interesting and useful input which will make for a smoother acclimation process.

It’s important to remember, however, that as the mentee, it’s your responsibility to make the relationship work.  It’s a rare occurrence that a mentor will seek you out in order to offer advice in an office environment.

A talented mentor may likely choose to not offer information until asked.  Although some may have a wealth of information that they are eager to pass on, in general, mentors do not need to own the relationship.

Presumably, you mentor has experienced success, earned a quality network of peers, mentoring - success flow chartand most likely, established their legacy.  Often, the best way they can help you is by steering you toward a series of small successes to build your confidence.  They can contrast your behavior against the background of the office to help you see what might be a more effective strategy.

The last thing they should want to do is give you ready-answers.  The only thing that will accomplish is turning you into a clone of themselves, reliably following “good ideas” that have worked before, or possibly even someone who is not trusting of their own judgment or problem-solving skills.  That leads to stagnation, not innovation.

The Takeaway

Conceivably, one day an up-and-coming executive may to ask you to be their mentor.  A great deal of satisfaction can be gained by helping someone else blossom into an effective contributor.

Recognizing a talent, cultivating it, nourishing it, and seeing it develop into something magnificent that you never anticipated is extremely rewarding.  Of course they might have gotten there on their own, but knowing that you helped and supported their transformation can almost give you a sense of parental pride and satisfaction.

So as the mentee, the best thanks you can give your mentor, is to be successful.  For them, that makes it all worthwhile.

By Fred Coon, CEO


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