I continually hear young people and those wanting to progress in their career or industry looking for mentors. To be successful today you need them, however a mentors time can be hard to come by and you begin a commitment to talk with only one person. To me, this seems limiting. Whilst they may be the perfect person to chat with at that particular moment in your life’s journey, once you’ve found answers to questions you’re currently holding in mind your thinking moves forward and a different person’s insights or experience may be more valuable to you. It’s unlikely the mentoring relationship will endure and the problem is our mentoring paradigm!
Over the years I haven’t asked any one person to be my mentor, yet I’ve benefited from many amazing connections and quality conversations where I’ve gained invaluable insights about myself, my career and farming business. I’ve valued a range of experiences, insights and perspectives from work colleagues, other farmers, friends and relatives of all ages and stages. Together these people have formed my dynamic network. It’s very effective to build a network of connections, especially if you learn to ask enquiring questions of the right people when the opportunity arises.
When you broaden your definition of mentoring to include your wider network, you can see each connection as a potential mentoring interaction and the possibilities and opportunities become infinite. Successful connections often lead to more connections as people refer you to someone else they feel could better inform your current thinking. If you think of mentoring in this fluid way you’ll stand to gain far more than connecting with just one person. The trick is to tune in to the questions to ask to gain the insight you need right now and identifying the right person to ask. Keep assessing the right question for the right person as your network grows or evolves – ‘what’s my question’ and ‘who should I ask’?
Redefining mentoring as simply a conversation about something someone has done that you’d like to learn or do will unlock the power of your entire network – there are potential mentors everywhere! In our fast-paced, uncertain world of unlimited opportunity and only limiting mindsets, being open to a diversity of knowledge, thoughts and experience is important to successfully achieving our goals.
Here are some tips for unlocking the potential of your network –
- Never miss an opportunity to have a conversation and start by talking to anyone about anything e.g. if you find yourself sitting next to a CEO at dinner, ask them what essential skills they need to be successful in their role. If you’re introduced to someone who’s recently purchased a herd of cows, tell them you’re striving to do the same and ask if they’d mind sharing how they raised their equity. Be curious!
- Have some enquiring questions ready to roll out during your conversations. My favourite conversation starter is ‘What’s been keeping you busy lately?’. Think about your own strategic questions e.g. where am I now, where do I want to be, how do I get there? Use these to formulate the right questions and hold these front of mind. Be prepared!
- Know who is likely to attend the next industry event or conference you’re attending, formulate the questions you want to ask these people, approach them and ask them. Reflect on these conversations and note any key insights. Be brave!
Get connected – it’s extremely powerful!