Seeking 4 mentors and 1 dog

I can’t think of a business leader I know who doesn’t value a great mentor. We all have them. We should stand up and thank all the people whose wisdom and coaching have gotten us through a tight spot. Mentors are key. I’ve been thinking about the many in my life. And the range of roles they play.
There seems to be four types of mentors in my life.
1. Advisors.
There are people who are wiser, smarter, sometimes older, but certainly more experienced in many, many things. From these folks, I receive access to their portfolio of tried and true, their rolodex, or discovered truths. My best advisors are the ones who tell me a story of what they’ve done, what they learned, and then they ask me a ton of questions to help me learn what I need to learn in my current business situations. My CEO group, now called Vistage, is my best source advisors today. Before that, i turned to many, many folks. Mostly my lovely husband. Depending on what is the current challenge of the day (HR issues, capital needs, growth strategies, sales and marketing ideas for a services firm), the flavor of advisors can change.
2. Supporters.
These are the people who applaud like heck, and ring the equivalent of old-time church bells to commemorate how far you’ve come and who you are. These are the people whose table you go to for comfort, to pour out your heart, perhaps share a glass of wine and regroup before going out there in the world. My friends, Lauralee & Martin Sorensen, are some of the people I turn to. Just last week, she said something that still brings a smile to my face. And, you know, I have tough days like everyone else so getting little boosts along the way is just awesome. I wish all family members could be each other best supporters but I think sometimes we forget how hard things are for our kids and spouses and take the role of supporter for granted.
3. Coaches.
These are the people who can take a part of your discovery voyage and help you see it more clearly. Perhaps teach you what would work, and help you apply that lesson. These are the people who are ready to put themselves in front of you when you’re about to put yourself in front of a train. They are opinionated, but always willing to disaggregate your situation and offer another set of options. These are incredibly difficult folks to find but can be incredibly helpful to move a person past their own paradigm. I’ve seen professional coaches make a big difference like this, so there’s no reason why coaches can’t be paid ones.
4. Challengers.
Ahh, my favorite group … or least my largest group. These are the people that find all the risks and opportunities to fail in what you propose. They challenge your thinking, the completeness of your plans, and the viability of ideas. Thank goodness we all have them. It would be easy to think these people are ‘critics’ but I think these folks can be the uber-mentor, making sure all the drive of someone like me (entrepreneur and all that) to temper what I believe to be true and make sure I create a realistic plan. I love my challengers, and I appear to like them so much that I have them all over my life.
Oh, and none of these people will be entirely the full and ever-perfect mentor. We grow, other people grow and we move on. There is no such thing as “perfect” mentor. If you want that kind of unconditional presence, a dog might be a good idea. I’ve been thinking of getting one with this in mind. 😉

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