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3 Tips For Choosing TheRight Mentor

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

Mentors are NOT one size fits all.

This something I learned early as an ambitious young

leader. I was ALWAYS looking (and still am) for who I could

learn from next. This, by the way, is a good trait to have.

However, I was never taught that not everyone who

happens to know more than me in my field of work, or an

area of life that I wanted to grow in, was the right mentor for

me. As a result of my ignorance in this I had a few

unfortunate coffee dates with potential mentors where we

both walked away probably thinking, “Let’s NEVER do that

again!” While there were others that I happened upon that

was the perfect fit!

“Mentors are NOT one size fits all.”

Nevertheless, mentorship is a significant part of our growth

as leaders and it should be a consistent part as well. I

eventually realized that some intentionality should go into

selecting the people we’re asking to invest time and

knowledge in us. We all need a tool or filter for how to

successfully choose a mentor that we can learn from. While

we can be informally mentored throughout our lives, formal

mentorship takes intentionality.

“Nevertheless, mentorship is a significant part of our growth as leaders and it should be a consistent part as well.”

My foundational filter for selecting a mentor is two-fold.

First, I look for someone who is living a principle that I want

to learn. Whether it’s for becoming a better husband, a

better son, a better employee or another area of life. If

they’re living it out that’s my first ✓. The second thing I look

for if I am unable to find someone who is already where I

want to go is someone who is headed in the same direction

but just ahead of me. That’s the second ✓. Then to those

two, I add the following three filters.


The first thing we have to ask is, “How do I learn best?” This

question is key. How we learn is essentially the container

that we’ll use to help us hold on to the knowledge that our

mentor passes on. Are you a hands-on learner? Are you

visual? Are you an auditory learner? Knowing the answer to

this question will help us walk away from that mentorship

with the most growth possible. It will help you and your

mentor determine how to best navigate the teaching,

coaching and learning experience.

Tip: An easy indicator of whether or not you know the

answer is to think about how often you’ve wondered to

yourself about why you learn really well sometimes but not

all the time. If you think about that a lot, chances are you

don’t yet know how you best learn and need to spend time

figuring that out.


A common mistake people often make when entering into

mentorship is thinking that they’re going to somehow learn

everything from the mentor. This is unrealistic. The mentor

will not be able to do that nor will we be able to learn it all.

especially in short-term mentoring relationships. I learned

that identifying a specific an item that I’d like to walk away

with is far more successful.

For example, if you’re a Christian and you admire the

spiritual walk of a more mature believer. Instead of trying to

learn how to be as spiritual as they are. Try narrowing your

focus to learning how to find consistency in your walk with


Here’s another example, if you’re new on the job with lots to

learn, take few minutes to identify the area you feel the

most pressure to deliver on. Identify a core item you can

learn and use to improve that specific area on the job. After

you’ve done this filtering, then go find a mentor to guide

your learning that ONE thing. If you learn other things great!


This third and final filter will likely be one of the most

practical tools for both you and your mentor DURING your

mentorship. Before we identify a mentor to help us learn, we

need to get a clear idea of just how long it may take you to

learn it. A couple of hours? Days? Maybe months? My point

is that Formal Mentorship should never have an

indefinite timeline. That can turn into a dreadful thing

for both parties. Whenever we’re entering into a mentoring

relationship we should always establish a clear timeline.

If you’re both able to commit to an hour meeting once a

month and you know you’ll need at least 3 hours to fully

learn the idea or topic well, ask for four meetings. The

fourth will reduce the pressure on the first three and allow

room for flexibility.


Since mentorship is such an integral part of continuing to

develop as a leader, we should have a tool or filter for how

to successfully choose a mentor for ourselves. The

following three are my filters.

1. Know how you learn best

2. Know what you want to learn

3. Know the time you need

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post. If you

did, be sure to share it with a friend and follow this blog

by signing up with your email. Also, if you have other

ideas about great practices of self-leadership leave a

comment! I’d love to learn from you!

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