Some entrepreneurs may make it look easy to talk your way into the good graces of a great role model who will help you grow your business, but it isn't always easy to find that one special person. In fact, suggests Kathy Kram, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Boston University School of Management, putting all your mentor eggs in one basket can be a mistake. "I think people really ought to think in terms of multiple mentors instead of just one," concludes Kram, the author of Mentoring at Work. And they don't all have to be grizzled business veterans. "Peers can be an excellent source of mentorship," she says.
Once you've identified a mentor candidate, how do you persuade him or her to sign on to your cause? Would-be mentors are most receptive to people who ask good questions, listen well to the responses and demonstrate that they are hungry for advice and counsel, Kram says.
In the best of all worlds, it's not just the protégé who benefits from the relationship. The mentor, as well, should see the opportunity as one for personal growth. "In today's context, mentors learn new skills and competency themselves," observes Kram. "It's a chance to revitalize their own learning."
This story was adapted from "The Mentors," an article in the June 1998 issue of Inc. Magazine.