Before approaching a potential mentor, make sure you can articulate *why* you desire their influence in your life.
Each year several guys email me or call me and ask if I would consider mentoring them. The fact that they took the initiative to even ask always makes me want to say “Yes!” However, I can only commit to so many people at one time, so I frequently have to decline their request.
Because I’ve experienced the impact of mentoring on my own life, I deeply believe every young leader needs someone who will pour into them and coach them in life and leadership. But asking someone to mentor you can be an awkward appeal.
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years that may make it easier for you to ask AND make it more likely the seasoned leader will agree to your request:
1. Let them know why you have chosen them as a potential mentor.
Sometimes people want to spend time with a leader because of their position, not because of their person. If someone just wants to hang with me because of my title, I’m less likely to say yes. But if they indicate there is something in my character or competencies they aspire to imitate, then it lets me know they have been watching and see something they feel is worthy to learn and emulate.
2. Share your dream.
What do you want to be? What do you want to accomplish with the next season of your life? What difference do you want to make in the community or in the lives of people around you? You have to let the potential mentor know why it would be worth their time to invest in you. Usually when they hear your dream they feel honored to be a part of investing in your future success. I said yes to someone recently simply because he sold me on the exponential impact he was going to have on leaders all across his state.
3. Share some of the specific things you want to learn from them.
Typically you ask someone because you see specific things you want to learn from them. Make sure you define those things and then express those things when you make the request. For example: The way they treat their wife, how they manage their staff, how they deal with conflict, how they manage their personal character, etc.
4. Suggest a time period for the mentoring relationship.
Too often leaders start off in a mentoring relationship without defining the length of the commitment. This can led to an awkward ending rather than a natural closure to the relationship. So ask for a 6 month, 8 month, or 12 month commitment to the relationship. Ultimately that’s the mentor’s decision, but let them know you’re only looking for a short-term not a lifelong commitment.
5. Acknowledge that their time is valuable.
Let them know that you’ll always come fully prepared and always do any assignments to the best of your ability. Then let them know that you fully intend on turning around and passing along what you learn to others that will follow you.
On occasion I will have someone I’m mentoring say, “What can I do for you?” I always tell them the same thing: “The best way you can honor me is to put into practice the things God teaches you through our relationship.” Asking someone to mentor you is a huge investment on their part, so do all you can to honor them from start to finish.