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Radical Innovation: Success Without Academic Boundaries: Part 4

Updated: Oct 29

Mentorship: Creating Meaningful Mentor-Mentee Relationships

In the fourth installment of our "Radical Innovation: Mentorship" series, we delve into the essential aspects of nurturing a successful mentor-mentee relationship. This is not just about business; it's about empathy, innovation, and meaningful connections. Join us as we explore the critical elements that make mentorship thrive.

To paraphrase a great blog post from Tim Ferriss: The age-old question of how to find a mentor often leaves many without a clear answer. The reality is that individuals who could serve as ideal mentors don't typically want to be perceived as providing pro-bono life coaching. To navigate this challenge, Ferriss proposes that it's time to shift the question. Instead of asking, "How do I find a mentor?" consider asking, "How do I become an ideal apprentice?"

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This philosophy perfectly aligns with one of my all-time favorite quotes from the book 'Beginner's Mind' by Zen master Shunryo Suzuki, “In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.”

Formal and Informal Mentoring

The distinction between formal and informal mentoring is pivotal when embarking on a journey to seek guidance and support. Informal mentorships tend to evolve naturally and are often initiated casually, especially in the early stages of one's career or personal development. In contrast, formal mentoring is the focus of this article, emphasizing structured techniques and systematic approaches in mentor-mentee relationships.

Finding the Right Mentor

Before delving into the dynamics of formal mentoring, it's essential to ask yourself a critical question: What are you already proficient at, and where do your growth edges lie? Identifying your strengths and areas that need improvement is the first step in the mentorship journey. A mentor's role is to help you advance in the areas where you seek growth.

It's important not to put all your eggs in one basket. While one mentor can offer valuable guidance, having a diverse array of mentors with varying knowledge and experiences is invaluable. Mentors are valuable not only for acquiring knowledge but also for learning new skills and developing essential attributes.

One common area where mentorship is sought is in refining one's ability to have an appropriate voice in the workplace. Learning how to speak up in a respectful and impactful manner, one that is taken seriously and listened to fosters a culture of open communication and innovation.

Choosing the Right Mentor

Selecting the right mentor is a crucial decision. Ideally, your mentor should share your professional outlook and may have already achieved the goals you aspire to reach. It can be helpful to create a list of 2 or 3 potential mentors. As you reach out to them, you might discover that one is too busy or unable to commit the time, making it essential to have alternatives in mind.

Leveraging relationships within your workspace is another valuable approach. You can build networks with colleagues who may not be your direct supervisors but possess the skills and insights you need for your professional growth.

Setting the Foundation

Establishing mutual understanding and ground rules at the beginning of the mentor-mentee relationship is often the difference between a successful partnership and potential frustrations. Key elements to discuss include:

The role of technology in your interactions is important to discuss in order to ensure that both parties are comfortable with the chosen communication tools.

Set clear goals and expectations for the mentorship journey. It is helpful to articulate your strengths and weaknesses, and clearly define the areas where you seek growth.

Express to your mentor why you selected them and what you hope to learn from their guidance. This not only provides a sense of value to your mentor but also aligns expectations.

Decide on the ideal meeting space and frequency of interactions.

Effective Communication

In any mentorship, clear communication is vital. Defining communication expectations, including the cadence of meetings, correspondence, and expected response times, is essential. Whether it's through text, email, or other means, a shared understanding of how you will stay in touch maximizes the mentorship experience.

Another crucial aspect to explore is how you give and receive feedback. Effective feedback can drive improvement and innovation in both personal and professional aspects of life.

Transitioning and Ending Mentorships

At some point, a mentor-mentee relationship may reach its natural conclusion. While this can be a learning experience, it's essential to understand how to transition or end such arrangements gracefully. Some mentorships may not work out, but they can provide valuable insights into what isn't helpful for your growth.

As Mike Garringer, Director of Research and Evaluation at MENTOR, suggests, one of the most valuable gifts a mentor can offer is teaching. Learning from a mentor should prepare you for identifying and approaching your next mentor, as you continue your journey of growth and development.

In conclusion, whether you opt for formal or informal mentoring, the mentor-mentee relationship is a powerful vehicle for personal and professional advancement. By choosing the right mentors, setting clear expectations, and maintaining effective communication, you can unlock the full potential of mentorship.

In today's rapidly changing employment landscape, the role of a university degree in career growth is indeed undergoing transformation. While a degree remains a valuable asset, it is not the sole determinant of reaching executive positions. Employers increasingly seek individuals with diverse skill sets, leadership abilities, and advanced conceptual skills. As a result, the hiring landscape is evolving to consider various qualifications and experiences beyond traditional degrees.

In this evolving landscape, the emphasis is shifting toward skills, adaptability, and a holistic view of an individual's capabilities. It's a call for lifelong learning, continuous self-improvement, and embracing a range of educational and experiential opportunities. Whether you choose a university degree or other avenues, the key is to remain agile and responsive to the ever-changing demands of the job market.

Leverage mentors by becoming an ideal apprentice. As you learn and grow - the student can become the teacher, the mentee a mentor.

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” - Phil Collins

I invite you to stay tuned for the last blog post in this segment of the series: "Building a Personal Brand Without a Degree." In this upcoming post, we'll offer strategies to create a strong personal brand that showcases expertise and ambitions. Keep an eye out for this valuable insight into building your professional identity.

If you would like to connect please feel free to email me at or send me an invite to connect on my favorite platform LinkedIn. Godspeed

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