To mentor and to be mentored

Published in The Nashville Business Journal

Several powerful mentors have helped me to grow and learn during my career.

My dad was a business executive who taught me the inner workings of corporations. In my career with Tractor Supply, my predecessor Tom Hennesy was my mentor for more than a decade. When I was an impetuous young man, he helped me evolve into a more mature leader. Tom also explained the importance of seeing the big picture and coached me in how strong values lead to the long-term success of the enterprise.

Later, I mentored many upward-bound leaders, and it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Finding a mentor
First, identify what you really want and need to learn, then narrow your focus to a few people who fit the profile. Learn about your target mentor. When you are ready, simply tell your target, either in person or in writing, that you are seeking a mentor and would like to have a discussion.

Most leaders will feel honored and likely will schedule a meeting. Come prepared with your specific goals and a suggested schedule. I recommend one meeting a month at a neutral location. Assure your mentor you will provide an agenda for each session.

Becoming a mentor
Jump at the chance — you won’t regret it. if you have been in business for awhile, you will have a myriad of experiences that can be helpful to young folks. You are in a respected position and have much more to share than you may realize. Consider using your successes and failures as tools; both can be instructional for emerging leaders.

I often find myself telling stories, good and bad, that shaped my career. And often my screw-ups are more important in the learning process than stories of success. If you accept a mentorship, don’t be surprised if you become more proud of your mentoring than most anything else you are doing.

A highly rewarding process, mentoring is an experience that fills both leaders and students with a great sense of pride and accomplishment.

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