Some of the most successful mentoring relationships occur because someone had the guts to approach an individual and simply ask the question. Sometimes a mentoring relationship develops without any formal agreement at all. And occasionally someone becomes a "silent" mentor, sort of like a silent partner who watches from the sidelines, sometimes offering advice in subtle ways.
As I mentioned in an earlier post this week, whether you´re the mentor or the one being mentored, you must hold confidentiality in the highest regard. A mentoring relationship cannot be successful or withstand the ups and downs of work without confidentiality. For example, you need to that whatever you say about a supervisor or a business idea won´t be repeated and that you won´t repeat something offered in confidence by your mentor. If you can´t speak in a safe environment, you´re not likely to learn or teach very much or very well.
As you work toward creating your mentoring squad, be sure to differentiate between mentors and coaches. A mentor is not a coach and contrary to what you might discover mentors in my humble opinion should not be paid. Money should just not be a part of a mentoring relationship. Unlike a coach, whom you do pay to help you further your goals, a mentor acts as an advisor. A coach may ask you specific question about where you want to go and help you determine what you need to get there. But don´t expect a mentor to necessarily ask the questions or know your needs. You need to be in charge of what you want.
Also, don´t be afraid to mix and mismatch. That´s right; it´s not a typo. It may be more comfortable and less threatening to align yourself with a like-minded mentor, someone with whom you have a lot in common or whose experience matches what you´d like to achieve. It´s probably more challenging, however to hook yourself up with someone who´s different. Remember that the idea isn´t to clone yourself into your mentor; the key is to learn from as many sources as possible.
Many times, we learn the most from those who have completely different points of view. Someone I know in production management for a well-known fashion house recognizes the importance of staying connected with people from various departments. She says that you don´t have to know the science or each piece of someone´s job, but you have to respect their knowledge. Not bad advice.