Great mentors are generally people of good will who get satisfaction out of helping create opportunities for other people by sharing their knowledge. This is not always as easy as it sounds, but it can end up being tremendously rewarding.
We encourage experienced executives to consider investing their time as a mentor. Whether reaching out through an organization like the Chairmen’s Roundtable (CRT) or taking on a mentee one-on-one, it is a legacy you can leave behind to the benefit of the mentee, their company, their employees and to the community at large.
If one of the most important measurement criteria for a good mentor is the success of those companies and people mentored, then CRT has made an impact. Our mentors have worked with more than 400 local companies, and in doing so found that no matter the industry, the CRT process is effective as most strategic issues apply across a range of businesses. While each mentored company is distinct and the value added to each situation will be somewhat different, CRT Mentors have related that there is a range of common issues and principles that apply on a broad scale. For starters, every CRT client (mentee) is unique and flexibility is key in effectively supporting each one. Some just need questions to prompt their strategic thinking. Still others require coaching on how to think strategically; and some can benefit from more hands-on guidance in the process of developing strategy.
It’s not uncommon for mentees to have never had the opportunity to think strategically. Often times company CEOs are too busy having the business run them versus running the business themselves. Once this is pointed out time and time again, it can be a real "aha" moment. It has also been noted that the real issue that the executives are facing is almost never the one for which they have asked for help. They are usually focused on a symptom or byproduct of the issue but seldom on the actual issues. Mentors know this and it is by asking the right questions that the real issues and subsequent solutions can be determined.
Good mentoring involves asking the right questions. Here are a few to start you off: "What is the objective?" What risks are you prepared to take? What are the benefits and risks of a given choice? What has to happen to succeed? How do you need to allocate your available resources? Where is the money to be made? I like to say, where are the "buckets of money?" How do we get our best people to do even better and turn a well trained group into an effective company? What are the criteria for success? Are they the same for you and your team?
It’s important to understand that a mentor’s role is not to teach how to drive, but to help draw a road map with good directions. You may help a mentee identify the solutions, but you do not – and should not – have to become the driving instructor. Instead, you should refer the mentee with their map in hand to the right expert when the need arises.
If you take up the call to arms and become a mentor, I believe you will derive great satisfaction as you watch your mentees succeed. If as a mentor we can pass along the lessons learned, so others do not make some of the same mistakes we have made, then we can help not only an individual person or business, but indeed the whole community.
About the author: Steven Mendell is past Chair of the Chairmen’s RoundTable, a non-profit volunteer organization comprised of more than 50 current and former Chief Executive Officers, with extensive board experience and diverse industry backgrounds, and 20 sponsor organizations. CRT mentors provide businesses in San Diego County priceless business advice and mentorship without compensation as a way of giving back to the community.