Being a leader is more than being a subject matter expert. Your team looks toward you for guidance and inspiration. You are often the face and voice of reason and can provide the motivation and insight they need to succeed, which is just as important, if not more, than your technical knowledge.

But what about you? Who can you turn to for your business and life? People call them business coaches, mentors, teachers, or even gurus--they are the individuals who can offer advice, feedback, or just to listen while you talk out a problem.  

Everyone needs this kind of person in their life, no matter if you are just starting out or a seasoned executive. The type of guidance needed changes as we shift and grow throughout our career. I've relied on many such "gurus" during my career and I have found the relationship invaluable to my progress in all aspects of my professional life, whether it's been as a CPA, tech executive, board member, yoga studio owner, or a professional speaker.

My relationships have helped me gain a different perspective throughout different stages of my career to help me improve my performance, decision-making, and productivity. I have found that they also make me a stronger leader as I can pass along this new insight and wisdom to my business teams.

Asking someone to fill such an important role in your life is not always easy, and it doesn't always mean that you need to make it "official." So, how do find your personal business guru?

Here are five tips to help establish the right fit and how to best benefit from this relationship:

1. Open yourself up to mentors with no connection to your business.

This should be someone independent from you daily life and he or she may not even have to associated with your industry. I have found that this allows the person to be completely objective in his or her comments and offer critical feedback with no consequences to you and you will not be concerned about what you tell them as well for fear of it coming back to bite you. This way he or she won't be timid about offering any tough feedback you need to hear.

2. Don't underestimate the career wisdom of your family and friends.

These people are great candidates since they already know you well and often understand the scope of what you do or want to do. And since you already have a relationship, you don't have to invest time getting to know each other. Plus, they are more comfortable providing advice and insight even when it may be tough to hear, but necessary. One of my best friends serves in this capacity for me. She is an entrepreneur too, and understands the ups and downs of running a business, even if we are not in the same industry. Being a leader comes with the same issues, so having her to bounce ideas, issues or opportunities off of is invaluable.     

3. Look for hidden gems in your business network.

Look toward your regular networking relationships. There is a good chance you know someone who is close enough to understand your business and the issues that come with it, but is not in direct competition. When you reach out to someone in your network make sure you are just there to take. I have found that the best relationships is when both sides give to each other.

4. Meet informally at first to gauge their interest.

When you have someone in mind, reach out to him or her for an informal coffee meeting to ask for advice on a particular topic. This helps gauge initial interest. Were they open and willing to offer advice and was it helpful? If so, do you want to approach him or her about being a guru--explain why you think you need such a person, why you think he or she would be ideal, what you are looking for in the relationship and how you can give back.

5. Find inspiration and guidance from afar.  

If you are not ready for an in-person guru, find your guidance from afar. For instance, when I began my yoga, I went to many national workshops and found teachers that I could follow through their social media, blogs, articles, and videos. I used their information as sources of inspiration that motivated me to go deeper in my knowledge, take in what they said, and think about how I can apply it to my business and life. You can do the same with other business leaders and personalities you don't know, but aspire to be more like.

Never expect to always know all the answers, or the right moves to make. There will be times when you need to seek outside council to help work through issues and help reach a clear decision. A guru relationship can be one of your most valuable business interactions to help you not only grow in your career, but personally. As they say, two heads are always better than one.

Published on: Jun 13, 2018