MEN­TOR­ING

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.

GQ (Australia) - - INSIDE GQ -

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

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