Famous leaders credit much of their success to great mentors. Mark Zuckerberg was mentored by Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg by Larry Summers, and Bill Gates by Warren Buffet. No one is too good to need a mentor. But what we don’t usually consider is what the mentor gets out of the relationship. There is a selfish side to mentoring and it’s a secret too good to keep.
I had the incredible experience of recently mentoring a team of up-and- coming strategists through Griffin Farly’s Beautiful Minds. The program is no easy task. It’s part networking, part bootcamp and part competition. This year, it was all virtual. I didn’t know what I was getting into—but wow, was it worth it. I learned first-hand that having a mentor isn’t just nice to have; being a mentor will teach you all new lessons, a whole lot faster.
You’re never to good to benefit from the foundations
Fourteen teams of aspiring strategists had three days to crack the brief and pitch it to the judges for a place in the finals. With Team 12, I joined bootcamps like Tips to Writing a Great Strategy, Comms Planning & Targeting and How to Give a Great Pitch. While the content was meant to be introductory, all of it was immediately applicable to the live pitch I was working on for my job—alongside account partners, creative and leadership.
Every piece of feedback that I gave, I applied to myself. I could see the foundational building blocks of strategy fortifying my daily work.
You’ll see your own work through someone else’s eyes
By my team’s third meeting, I felt panic. They weren’t far enough. There was no deck. There was not enough time.But all I could do was encourage them and guide them towards the goal. Panic was not helpful. And that’s when I realized it: my Motive Leadership team must have felt that same anxiety in my work when I shared my progress on a Thursday for a pitch presentation on a Tuesday.
I felt a sudden empathy for Leadership. I considered the discomfort I caused them with my messy strategic process. I also felt a need to trust that Team 12 had things under control.
They did. Their work blew me away. They’d cracked it.
Have a plan for how you want to use mentor time
In the end, Team 12 didn’t win. But it was cited for having the most memorable strategy of the conference. Seeing where they started and where they finished was rewarding, primarily because it was so highly practical.
I never expected that I would walk away from a mentorship experience with so much value. I also never expected that it would take up so much time. With the group whatsapp, we held multiple hour-long meetings daily. The mental investment I had in Team 12’s success, through that mentorshipm bled into work, as well as my personal and sleep time.
Reflecting back on how Team 12 used their office hours gave me insight into how I’ve been using leadership check-ins throughout my career. As I was listening to Team 12 present, all I wanted to do was click through the work and spend our limited feedback time in the areas that needed it most. If I felt like Team 12 could have used my time more efficiently, then there’s lots of room to improve how I use other people’s time.
I can’t name another experience where I learned so much in so little time. Your mentor doesn’t have to be an award-winning CEO with a shelf full of trophies, and you don’t have to be that CEO to be a great mentor to someone. If you think you could benefit from having a mentor, I challenge you to become one. You’ll learn it all and more.