Ask any successful person about their secrets to success, and they will tell you that asking for help is one of the most important aspects of their growth. Zuckerberg, Gates, and Branson proudly share that mentorship is a vital part of their story.
Branson credits British airline entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker for his success in launching Virgin Airlines. "It's always good to have a helping hand at the start. I wouldn't have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker," he shares.
He also shares that the first step to asking for help is admitting you need help. "Understandably there's a lot of ego, nervous energy and parental pride involved, especially with one- or two-person start-ups...Going it alone is an admirable, but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world."
Harvard's "Who Mentored You" project shares stories of transformative mentoring relationships. Leaders including President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra, Maya Angelou, and many others shared how their mentors impacted their lives.
So if game-changing, trail-blazing billionaires can reach out for help, how can the rest of us do the same? Here are 5 steps you can take to reach out to the right people, at the right time, in the right way, to get the right results.
1. THE WHAT: Know Your Ask.
Assume you will receive the help you seek. Therefore, be sure to seek the right help. To prepare for your ask, follow these steps:
- Write down your desired end-state - your vision.
- Break down the end-state into individual goals or milestones.
- Brainstorm the resources you need to achieve it (money, expertise, people, materials.)
While it's important to articulate your overall vision, it's equally as important to demonstrate your understanding of what you need to achieve it. Harvard Business Research refers to this as "Asking SMARTly."
2. THE WHO: Seek Out Those Who Have Achieved Your Goals.
Who you ask is just as important as what you ask. Remember that as we move through life, and as our goals evolve, the people that we need around us will also evolve. The people you needed around you as mentors 5 years ago, or perhaps even a year ago, are likely different than who you need now. Seek out those that have already achieved what you are trying to achieve, or have solved the problem you need to solve.
3. THE WHEN: Make Sure The Timing is Right For Everyone.
Sometimes the timing isn't right to seek help or to give help. As one who has formally and informally mentored others for 20 years, I personally know the time investment this relationship requires from both sides.
Sometimes someone wants to mentor you but has other personal or professional obligations. When this happens, seek out someone else. Never let someone's inability to help at a specific point in time stop you from moving forward.
4. THE HOW: Be Ready to Implement/Take Action.
If you are not ready to move to action, don't ask. When I speak to business owners and entrepreneurial groups about building advisory boards, I always stress the importance of being ready to implement the advice advisors provide. Mentors and advisors who invest their time, knowledge, and energy in you want to see you apply what you are learning.
5: Pay it Forward.
Finally, be someone that others want to help. We all have value to offer to those coming up behind us. Progress occurs because we are all in this together.
When I mentor others, I always encourage my mentees to find opportunities to share their lessons, whether it's through one-on-one mentoring, speaking at a conference, or participating as an advisor in a learning community. By doing so, we not only impart our experience and wisdom in one person; we indirectly empower and educate an entire community.
If you've read this entire column, you're officially ready to seek out help from others, and to share it. Wishing you the best of luck in your mentoring relationships!