BECAUSE YOUR CAREER DESERVES IT. AND IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT STANDARD LESSONS BETWEEN TEACHER AND STUDENT, AS INDUSTRY GURUS MARK BOURIS AND JACK DELOSA EXPLAIN.
Find the right teacher and avoid learning your lessons the hard way.
It’s not often we fly in the face of Mahatma Gandhi’s sage advice – after all, he had cred, barefoot swagger and that whole ‘peace unto others’ thing going on. But his musings that ‘Those who know how to think need no teachers’ arguably comes a little unstuck in the modern business pantheon. Because to achieve professional success in today’s heaving and fast-changing environment is to embrace teachers and explore the lessons of others. It means getting a mentor – someone respected and accomplished, ideally, and an invaluable guide to hopeful future achievement. Mentors come in many, varied shapes. Today’s digitised environment means unequivocal access to inspiring leaders who previously sat locked away behind large wooden doors, in offices of leather and glass. Not now. Want to bask in the business nous and savvy of Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos or Larry Page? Well, they’re but a simple Google search away (the latter likely pleased with the use of that specific search engine). But mentors also abound on this side of the screen – from within the same, or similar, sector you’ve adopted, or walking through the same office you already spend too much time in. Leading Australian entrepreneur and Yellow Brick Road chairman and founder Mark Bouris believes the best mentors can be akin to a great football coach. “Look at [Brisbane Broncos NRL coach] Wayne Bennett,” says Bouris. “He’s a great mentor to the players because he’s always asking questions of them, ‘What are you going to do today?’ and, ‘How are you going to get to where you need in the next six weeks?’ And it’s the same with mentors and business professionals.” Questions are key to any successful mentor-protégé relationship. And they must be direct, firm and likely from an unexpected point of view. “The best mentors are not the people who give answers – they’re those who ask questions,” says Bouris. “You, the business owner, or you, the professional, you’re the one who must have the answers – and if you don’t, then you need to develop or come up with them. And a good mentor will ask the hard questions – they’re not saying, ‘Well done, you’ve reached your goals,’ because that’s bullshit; you need someone who says, for example, ‘What’s it going to be like in 25 years if you’re still doing the same job?’ They must challenge you and make you think, ‘Shit, he’s right – where will I be?’” In business, adds Bouris, questions should be built around cash flow. “Is the cash coming in equalling the cash going out? How’s the timing of it? What’s the velocity of the cash coming in compared to the velocity of the cash going out? If you’re looking for a good mentor, then you want someone who’s going to challenge you the whole time – someone to hold you accountable. It’s a bit like going to a psychologist – they’ll ask you questions so you can work out what’s wrong.” Unlike a ‘business coach’ or career advisor, who offer structured rudimentary teachings about the day-to-day, from setting up an ABN to company structure, employment rules, accounting systems and so on, a mentor is “that guy or woman who challenges your total objective. The one asking, ‘What the hell are you doing this for?’ Let’s say you’re a professional working in finance – you’re over it and want to cash in your long service leave and all redundancy payments to open a cafe on the beach in Ballina. It’ll cost $350,000 and make $150,000 a year. Well, the first question [from a mentor] would be, ‘Are you buying yourself a job?’ Because that’s what you’re earning now, so why spend $350k to earn what you’re earning now? You’re buying yourself a job.” Too often, adds Bouris, professionals seek a mentor too late – when difficulty and distress has descended. “That’s the mistake people make – thinking they only need a mentor when
IN HOMER’S ODYSSEY, MENTOR WAS AN OLD MAN WHOSE APPEARANCE WAS ADOPTED BY THE GODDESS ATHENA TO GUIDE ODYSSEUS’ SON TELEMACHUS IN A TIME OF DIFFICULTY. ORIGINS