Leadership insight: Widen your perspective with a mentor

Posted by Cranfield School of Management on 11-Jan-2016 17:25:17

The ability to develop an external perspective (EP) is a quality valued but not developed by most managers. In part that’s because it’s a capability rarely explored in leadership training, but making a step towards a broader perspective is relatively easy to do when professionals take the time to proactively diversify their knowledge.

As leadership is a skill which generally needs to be nurtured, one way to develop the required skills — and build a wider outlook at the same time — is to secure a mentor, who can divulge unique insights to guide you towards your personal goals.  

The following advice, taken from this article via Forbes, provides a useful starting point for professionals who are looking to secure one. It’s got steps you can take to win the interest of an individual who could help you on a personal level. 

  • Understand your requirements. Get a clear understanding of what you need, or what you think you need, before you frame a request to a mentor. Not only will this help you select a person who’s able to share relevant advice on your chosen subject, it will help you get the most from your discussion when it comes around.

  • Research your field and mentor. Before you ask somebody to provide advice, carry out your own research. Not only is this a sign of respect which will aid the flow of the discussion, will let you focus on the areas where your mentor is most able to add unique value, which will make the process of knowledge sharing more effective, efficient and valuable.

  • Value their time. Your mentor is likely to be a successful person, otherwise you would not be asking them for advice. As such, they will probably have a busy schedule. Show an appreciation of their time when it comes to asking them to spend some with you, and be flexible about your own availability. It’s always a good idea to keep your initial request as short as possible — for example, a brief email asking for 15 minutes of someone’s time is a sensible approach.

  • Be clear about what you want. Both in your initial ask and in your first meeting, state what you are looking to achieve from the mentorship up front. Although it may feel uncomfortable getting straight to the heart of the matter, being efficient and concise is the best way to stay on track and get the most use from the situation. 

  • Offer something in return. It’s likely that your mentor will simply want to help you to give back to the greater good, but offering something in return is a respectful approach. There’s a chance you are able to provide insight into an area they are also looking to discuss, so you could forge a relationship that’s mutually advantageous on a professional level.

  • Stay in touch. Thank your mentor and keep them updated on how their advice helped you professionally. Not only is this a mark of respect, it provides you with additional touch points which could pave the way to future assistance. 

Many individuals are lucky to work with people can provide an ongoing source of advice and inspiration, but sometimes professionals need to widen their network to secure the information they need. Nurturing an external peer-to-peer relationship with someone you admire is just one way to develop the ability to think outside the box and flourish as a leader. 

How we can help

Within Cranfield School of Management we believe that leadership is a skill that needs to be honed, developed and nurtured. The Centre for General Management Development (CGMD) offers general management programmes that help managers at key career stages develop into leaders who influence the strategic course of their organisations. The management development courses, which cover the subject of knowledge sharing, are:

Click here for more information or download a programme brochure. 

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