In an excerpt from his book, The Lowdown: Top Tips for Wannabe CEOs, top publisher Richard Charkin (Bloomsbury Publishing) talks about mentoring....
Q: Is finding mentor a good idea?
Yes it is, although I’m pretty dubious about the word “mentor” – another bit of management jargon. It’s really helpful to have someone besides your immediate boss that you can talk to, who you can be completely open with and take advice from and just share with and unburden yourself. They don’t usually have the answers, it has to be said, but they at least they have some experience, and perhaps some wisdom to offer. I’ve been lucky enough to have some wonderful mentors throughout my career.
Q: What is the best piece of advice any one of them gave you?
If I had to choose one, I’d say it’s what the much maligned Robert Maxwell taught me: Nothing is too small to worry about, and nothing is too big to try for.
Q: Who would be an unwise choice of mentor?
I think your immediate line manager or a close colleague would be unwise choices. An analogy might be that it would be better to choose someone like an uncle or a grandfather rather than a mother, father or sister. Someone one step removed.
Q: How do you make an overture to a potential mentor? Do you just say can I take you to lunch and pick your brain?
No, I think it comes from being interested in the business. If you really are interested in the business, then potential mentors will be interested in you. I don’t think I ever bought my mentors lunch. I don’t think they ever bought me lunch, frankly. I don’t think it’s about going out of your way, I think it’s just that if you come across people, you express interest and if they like you, they adopt you. I don’t think you can adopt them. It’s about being open, interested and willing to learn.
Q: What will a mentor look for in you, besides being interested in the business?
Everyone’s looking for their successor. This is another part of the job of being a CEO. Normally you don’t make the decision on who succeeds you, but you should have your eye on at least one, if not more, people in the business who could take over, and you should be mentoring those people.
Q: What does someone like you look for in a protégé?
Someone who does things, who doesn’t come forward with excuses for not doing things. Someone who finds solutions, not problems. Someone who smiles – can’t tell you how important that is. Someone I like. Someone I can speak to without worrying about political correctness – in other words, someone who’s relaxed – and someone who doesn’t share my faults.*
“The Lowdown: Top Tips for Wannbe CEOs” is now available in eBook format.
*Ed: We didn’t know he had any! :o)