Mentoring has a simple problem of supply versus demand. Everyone wants Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg or Apple’s Tim Cook as his or her mentor, yet these executives only have 24 hours in their day.
For mentors, identifying the pretenders versus those that are worth their time and investment is probably the most important element when it comes to the entire concept.
This bottleneck problem is particularly a problem among Millennials. These younger workers want guidance. Nearly eight in 10 Millennials (79%) want their boss to serve more as a coach or mentor, according to The Intelligence Group.
This desire for mentorship means high profile executives must be ruthless in their assessment of potential proteges. They expect hunger, ambition, and resourcefulness. Above all, they demand intelligence beyond the classroom.
Devin Wicker is founder and CEO at Bonwick Capital Management, one of the largest, minority-owned investment banks in the country. A former Goldman Sachs banker who was involved in the firm’s mentorship program and now has his own program at Bonwick, Devin’s mentored 15-20 people over the course of his career.
“When looking for mentees, there are several characteristics that I look for: strong work ethic, discipline, desire to achieve,” he says. “But one thing that I also look for is how a person thinks. What I mean is, does a person think about the logical extension? It is one thing to be able to take notes, memorize and regurgitate information, but it is entirely different to take that information and generate a reasonable conclusion about its application. This is especially important in the financial services world, where innovation is happening all the time. Mentees that I choose have to be able to demonstrate an ability to execute on those innovations, take a different approach, and more importantly, take a project to the finish line and see ideas come to fruition.”
In other words, Wicker wants proteges that will become leaders in their own right. For example, he explains that “if I am talking about the global economy and I say that the Chinese currency devaluation is good for their economy, my mentee can ask either, “Why?” or “Is that because it will make exports cheaper and increase GDP?” That is the sign of a good leader. Sometimes that is a skill that comes naturally, but it is also something that can be taught. So if you are at point A and you are a visionary and can think how to get to point Z, that’s fantastic. But what I try to teach to my mentees are what I call the “B through Y” – the steps to get from point A to point Z. Because in my world it is all about ability to not only see a goal, but understand what it takes to plan and execute it.”
For author and PR guru Peter Shankman, due diligence is essential to any possible relationship. He recalls meeting one admirer who wanted to discuss his business idea as an add-on to GoPro cameras. However this individual started his discussion by saying to Shankman, “I don’t know if you know about GoPro.” Well, Shankman is extremely familiar with these tech devices; he frequently blogs about his usage of these devices and also talks about his friendship with the company founder/CEO Nick Woodman. “Know who you are talking to. If I take my time to meet with you, at least do your part in learning about me,” he says.
Communications executive Alysha White identifies with assertiveness. “Do I believe they have the hustle, determination and drive to achieve their dreams? If I don’t immediately answer them, will they follow up? The ones who stay on top of me and aren’t deterred by a lapse in my response are the ones I typically gravitate toward.”
In fact, many of these mentors see themselves in their mentees. “”I have some of those same qualities, so it’s almost like seeing a bit of yourself in the person you choose to mentor,” says White. From my experience, mentoring is not a one-way relationship, either. You can learn a lot from your mentees if you’re willing to turn off your own agenda and listen.”
Millennials also would like to send the elevator back down. The majority (59%) would like to be a mentor to someone, according to The Hartford Group. And 78% of Millennials consider themselves leaders already, 35% at work.
This article was written by Larissa Faw from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.