Get yourself a mentor
by Kai Fu Lee
October 15, 2012
“A personal mentor is like a personal trainer — someone who can give you objective and personalized help to make you better.
A good mentor is usually someone who knows something about your job and company, but need not be an expert. A mentor shouldn’t be your direct manager or in your line of management, because that may create a conflict of interest for him/her. And a mentor should be more senior than you, but not by too much. Someone who is about two promotions higher is ideal. A mentor who is not senior enough may not be able to take a step back and see the forest and not just the trees. But a mentor who is too senior may not be able to step into your shoes and see things they way you do.
There are three types of mentors (or the “three C’s):
Comforter — A person you call when you’re having trouble. A good comforter would lend you a sympathetic ear (and occasionally a shoulder to cry on). But he/she would help you see the silver lining in a dark cloud, and also cheer you up and give you confidence and hope.
Clarifier — A expert at analyzing and problem-solving. A good clarifier will ask questions, listen, ask more questions, help develop multiple solutions, and finally help you pick one. A really good clarifier should get you to a point where you can pick the solution without help, and also learn how to problem-solve for yourself the next time.
Confronter — When you are complacent, lazy, or afraid, you need a confronter to challenge and push you, and remind you of your commitments. Good confronters are tough and not always pleasant, but they are particularly important for those of us who lack discipline or courage.
I have been fortunate to have had all three types of mentors in my career. So go out there and find your mentors. Then, for each situation, seek out the right mentor to help you resolve the situation and also uplevel yourself.”
Kai Fu Lee
CEO at Innovation Works
Beijing City, China Venture Capital & Private Equity
Google, Microsoft, SGI
Ph.D., computer science at Carnegie Mellon Unviersity