In this series, professionals thank those who helped them reach where they are today. Read the posts here, then write your own. Use #ThankYourMentor and @mention your mentor when sharing.
In my first job out of college, there was a reorg where I got a new manager (Dave Kellogg) that I had never met before. He was not just one or two levels above me as you might expect, but a SVP and GM of Salesforce’s Service Cloud business.
I was eager not just to get aligned with my new manager, but to learn from him. I just had one big problem, it was quite challenging to get on his very full schedule. After a few weeks of trying to schedule a few minutes here and there, I had an idea. I thought it was a bit crazy, but I was ready to give it a try. I asked him if I could get a ride with him to work. In a previous conversation, I found out that he lived near me and we both commuted to San Francisco. I remember waiting to hit the send button on the email wondering if I would get a response back with a link to buy a Caltrain pass, but instead he responded, “No problem.”
To make a long story short, I hitched a ride many times to work with Dave. The conversations developed over time from alignment, to Dave providing invaluable advice about marketing, Silicon Valley, business school and how to make everything work while taking care of your family. He is still a mentor today and I am so grateful he was willing to give a ride to a young employee that was eager to learn.
I share this story because I want to thank Dave for being a great mentor, but also to encourage those looking for a mentor to take the initiative. Often, we put too much pressure on our mentor finding and helping us instead of what we can do to be easy to mentor.
To give you a few ideas, I asked three senior executives that I know are great mentors to share what the mentee’s can do to make life easier for the mentor.
“In order to be a great mentee, be proactive and clear about what you want to get out of the relationship with your mentor. Don’t expect the mentor to figure out where to focus your work together, but instead, you should help drive that discussion and be clear about your goals from the outset.”
Prepare: come to a meeting ready and armed with 1-3 pithy questions.
Listen non-defensively: defensiveness kills communications. If you're always interrupting and explaining (e.g., "but we only had one week to get that done"), it means you're not listening
Act: put the ideas in practice and come back with feedback and questions based on those actions.
Most mentors love teaching, so being easy to mentor means becoming a good student. Good students come prepared, are motivated to learn, do their homework, and challenge their teachers. It’s a win/win relationship where both parties learn from each other. On the flip side, nothing is worse for a mentor than someone who’s just going through the motions and not genuinely interested in learning. After I’ve given the same feedback twice, if the person hasn’t tried anything or changed anything, then it’s time to move on. It’s a waste of everyone’s time if you don’t really want to change and learn."
“In my experience, each member of the mentoring partnership contributes to the relationship and shares responsibility for its effectiveness. Both the mentee and the mentor learn and benefit from the experience. I have found that the best relationships occur when both mentor & mentee establish a mutually beneficial partnership where they can OFFER and GIVE during each engagement.”