How to Prep for Meetings with Mentors

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Wed, Sep 2 - 2:17 am EDT | 5 years ago by
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One of the best things I’ve ever done in my life is surround myself with people smarter than me, and that have experience different from me. I frequently enjoy a cup of coffee before work, a lunch, or an after work beverage with folks who know more than I do so I can pick their brain, and ask them things I would normally pay several hundred dollars an hour for.

But I don’t go in, enjoy my beverage or meal, and go home. Oh no. That would be nice, if I had a LOT of free time. Every minute counts for me, and especially for these smart people.

Instead, I find it’s really important to prepare as well as I can for these meetings, to savor every moment I have. What follows is the preparation I do for any meeting with a mentor (or “smart person”) that I might have.

  • Understand why we are meeting – What is their value to me? What is my value to them? Can I help them in any way? I ask ahead of time “Is there anything you’d like me to bring to our meeting so it can be more productive?” I also ask them to bring anything that might make it more productive for me.
  • Understand and respect how much time we have - If we agree we only have 30 minutes, I respect that 30 minutes and I make sure we end on time – even if one of us is late.
  • Take good notes – I bring my notebook and write down important points we discussed.
  • E-mail a summary of points discussed, if there was anything particularly interesting, along with any action items we discussed and include the timeframe. This shows the other person I was paying attention, and it helps us both get done what we said we would get done, and it sparks a memory and helps us keep our promises.
  • Always e-mail or Twitter a thank you (and sometimes follow-up with a handwritten thank you note), even if we discussed nothing of note. Time is scarce. Saying thanks, an authentic thanks, tells the other person I am appreciative of the resources shared.
  • Mention the “next time” we can get together, if there’s more we could discuss. I keep it open-ended, because sometimes the limited time we had is all we get. If I can, I try to add value and help the other person also look forward to the next time we can connect.

Questions for you:

Do you surround yourself with other smart people?

How do you prepare for these meetings?

Ghetto Pourover photo credit to jakeliefer

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  • http://www.nosmokeandmirrors.com Mark Allen Roberts

    Mentors are a blessing,

    I like the advice you shared in your post.

    If you don’t have a current mentor, find one.

    I discuss this in my blog post : 12 Mentor Moments to help leaders grow their businesses profitably http://nosmokeandmirrors.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/12-mentor-moments-to-help-leaders-grow-their-businesses-profitably/

    Thank you and I plan to share this post.

    Mark Allen Roberts

  • Holly

    How does one go about finding a mentor? I know that mentors are important, but besides former bosses, I’m often unsure who to approach.

  • Natalie

    I really enjoy this kind of one on one meeting and I have a list of three people to call and set up appointments with, but I have a really hard time making the initial call to ask them for their time. Any advice?

  • Pingback: Ask a Potential Mentor for Help (how-to) : Slacker Manager - Management and Leadership Advice – How to Be a Good Manager

  • http://slackermanager.com Phil Gerbyshak

    Holly – I wrote an article about how to find a formal mentor a while back. I’ll work on writing how to find an informal mentor article soon.

  • Steve Patchen

    One excellent source of free mentors is SCORE. You can locate a chapter near you by going to http://www.score.org

    You may consider cyber counseling as well. Your mentor is selected based on experience in your business, or a closely related one.

    Many successful businesses have enjoyed a long term relationship with SCORE.

    Try it! You’ll like it!

  • http://altruisticmarketer.wordpress.com LuAnne Speeter

    Natalie, I find it’s easier to make the initial contact if you can request an introduction from a mutual contact on LinkedIn. When introducing yourself, mention why you thing that’s person’s expertise would be helpful for you. Then, be sure to mention that you hope your meeting will be mutually beneficial. Remember, you have your own experience to bring to the table.