Over the years I have been fortunate to have been mentored by some quality people. The advice they have shared with me throughout my career has helped shaped not only the path of my career, but has also shaped me as a person.
Mentoring is a powerful form of self-development. I believe mentoring is a key growth activity we can all benefit from at some point in our lives.
Even better, if we were to grow from the varied experiences of many mentors, I believe our lives would be truly enriched.
Today I am sharing some of the best advice I have received from my mentors.
What makes it the ‘best’ advice? Well, it is advice I have found to be the most useful, timeless and impactful.
There is a lot of advice out there. Some helpful, some not so much.
The gems I am sharing today fit those qualities above – useful, timeless and impactful.
As with any advice, it is only helpful if you apply it to your situation. I encourage you to think about how this advice may assist you in your career and life goals.
What is Mentoring Anyway?
Mentoring is a development experience – and it is all about experience.
The person seeking to be mentored, the mentee, is focused on developing themselves, whether it is their knowledge, skill or experience.
The mentor assists their mentee by sharing their experiences, providing advice, being a role model, offering their knowledge and sharing their perspectives.
A mentee benefits when they take in what the mentor is offering and apply it in their life.
This is where the real growth comes – from action and experience. However, it begins with the inspiration and insight gained from the interaction with the mentor.
Why is Advice from a Mentor so Valuable?
“A good mentor helps you to walk in your own shoes, even if you start out just wanting to walk in theirs” – Li Cunxin, Mao’s Last Dancer.
When working with mentees, I have often found myself reminding them that the mentoring partnership is all about them and their growth.
The quote above summarises it perfectly. The journey is the mentee’s task to take.
But sometimes, we need some help on our own path.
When we have the benefit of a mentor who is a trusted advisor, and cares about our journey, then their advice becomes a valuable tool to help us on our way.
The Best Advice I have Received from my Mentors
What makes a quality mentor is the combination of their experiences, but more importantly, their willingness to share their insights and invest their time in developing the mentee.
It is the care a mentor shows their mentee that makes a huge difference.
Sometimes the advice comes out as straight out advice, for example “this is what you need to do…” Other times it is questioning, more like coaching, to get you to think through the situation.
Other times, the advice comes in a form of simply making an observation that allows you to consider the point from another perspective.
That is the mark of a great mentor – they know you and care about you enough to tell you what you need, at the time you need to hear it.
Here is the best advice I have received from quality mentors, aka experienced and caring people.
80% is Good Enough
As a recovering perfectionist, this piece of advice – 80% is good enough – was liberating for me.
The idea behind the message is simple, you only need to put in 80% of your effort to a task, and it is done, and you can move on.
Now, I recognise there are scenarios where this would be grossly negligent advice. For example, in high-risk occupations or activities, where the consequences can be disastrous. I am thinking doctors, pilots and engineers to name a few.
However, this advice is not intended for all activities and all situations.
It is general advice to apply to daily activities where it is better to make progress rather than wait for perfection.
Through my life I have had perfectionistic tendencies. Sometimes this can be really useful. But mostly, it is just a pain. It causes hesitation and can slow down the process.
When starting out from a point of wanting perfection, your natural approach is of care and concern for the task. You want to do a good job and get it right.
If this is your MO, then there are times when 80% is certainly enough. Because you have already put in way more effort than someone who regularly does an average job.
If responsibility, diligence and conscientiousness sound like descriptors of your usual behaviour, then consider whether there are times that your 80% may be good enough. Then it is time to move on and share your magic, and apply your talent, to the next activity.
Are you are running away from, or running towards it?
This piece of advice was in the form of a question.
Sometimes, this is the most effective form of advice, because it encourages you to truly work through the options, then come to your own conclusion. You are more committed to the way forward, because you arrived at that decision, as a result of the questioning.
Last year I had the opportunity to take a contract role outside my organisation. I struggled with the decision, wrestling with many questions in order to made a decision.
Was it the right thing to do? Should I stick things out here? Would it damage my relationships in future? Was the benefit going to be enough? Could I achieve those benefits here without the disruption?
In the end, I consulted a mentor and shared my internal dialogue and frustration at not knowing what to do.
My mentor’s response? They asked me “are you running away from or running towards it?”
The question smacked me over the back of the head with the weight of perfect logic.
The clarity from this insight focused my mind on the drivers of my decision-making. It enabled me to reduce the noise, and instead focus on the most important aspects of the decision.
How do you know if you are running away from, or running towards something?
Easy – is the option based in fear, or is it based in love?
There are some much deeper insights I can go into around fear vs love. That’s for another time.
However, if you stop and think briefly about this, it makes sense.
In my situation it translated to – was I going to another job because of what I could gain from it (running towards/love), or was I leaving the job because of I wanted to get out of that environment (running away from/fear).
I think you can make a decision that is both running away from and running towards something else. But the important thing is to not only chose the option that is running away.
Why? Because we need to know what we are going after. Otherwise the cycle will surely repeat.
Importance of Reflection
My first mentor spoke with me about reflection and how it helped them in their career.
They shared that it is important to look back on a situation and understand what worked well, what didn’t and what could be better next time.
By understanding these components of a situation, we can grow and be better versions of ourselves in future scenarios.
How we reflect is varied. My mentor shared that they like to take themselves out for a coffee once a week. They do this alone, so there are no distractions, and there is some quiet time for the reflection.
I have done this myself, and found it worked wonders. Plus, I really love coffee, so it makes for an enjoyable experience as well.
Other ways I have reflected are journaling, particularly when going through a situation that I know to be tough. Having the contemporaneous notes to go back to really helps me understand what I was thinking and feeling, and why. Then, at the other end of the event, I am able to see my progress through the challenge.
This serves to reinforce my capabilities, resilience and I can see my confidence grow.
Where to From Here?
I am continually learning and growing. There is advice I am collecting along the way.
Testing out the advice, seeing what works best for me, then discarding what does not.
When we receive good advice, that we know has been helpful, I believe it is worth sharing. Not all advice may work well for all people.
That is ok. We are all learning.
What is the best piece of advice you have received from a mentor?
Comment below, I would love to know.