So, do you want a mentor? Let me offer some good advice.

1. Be good at something first.

This might sound strange, but you need to be good at something before you ask someone to help you be great at something. You can be good at anything! That doesn’t matter. You may want to be a great leader and your only claim to fame is that you are really good at golf or giving a talk. Maybe you are brilliant at math or a technological genius type. Here’s the point, if you are good at something, you have shown the passion and discipline to create the needed potential to become great at what you really want. I don’t want to discourage you, but if you’ve just been hanging out and you’ve never worked hard at anything, you’re not ready for a mentor. Perhaps you’re a young adult and your only claim to fame is that you were an A student in college. Great! That’s what I’m talking about. Get good at something first.

2. Seek someone just a little ahead of you.

A common mistake is to think: “If I’m going for a mentor, I’m going right to the top and getting the best.” I appreciate the sentiment, but you are likely making a mistake. For example, if a pastor who serves in a church of 500 seeks a mentor who pastors a church of 5,000, the two of them clearly live in two different worlds and they barely speak the same language. Yes, leadership principles are leadership principles. That’s true, but trust me on this, and this is the key, you are much better off being mentored by someone who understands where you are because they were there at one time, and maybe even not so long ago! If you lead a church of 500 try to get a mentor who leads a church of 800 to 1,200. This is not a legalistic thing. Don’t get hung up on the numbers, just go with the idea. And of course, make the ask.

3. Think intentionally organic.

Don’t ask for lots of regularly scheduled meetings. You will likely lose a potential mentor that way. Don’t ask for monthly or even quarterly connects. Go for a more intentionally organic approach. Here’s what I mean. If you can hang with a couple meetings (phone or in person) a year plus a few short emails, you might be surprised by how quickly you get a yes. Intentional refers to staying strategic and on purpose and the organic simply means to catch the meetings when it works out naturally in both your schedules.

You don’t need lots of meetings, not if you really want to change and grow. Information requires lots of meetings — transformation requires only a few. If you connect with a good mentor two or three times in a year, that is plenty. It will take you at least that much time between conversations to really put to practice what was given to you. Now let’s do the math, if you have two or three mentors, you can see that would be six to nine meetings a year – basically way too much.

Note #1: When it’s a boss/employee relationship, of course you meet much more often, but much of that is just “doing business.” That’s natural and normal. It is unrealistic to think that’s all mentoring. In fact, if it is, you are likely into something closer to a counseling relationship than coaching and mentoring.

Note #2: When it’s a crisis situation, everything changes. If it’s a true crisis, your mentor will get that and quickly respond, and that requires more time. Sometimes in those situations I encourage the one I’m coaching to hire a consultant who can devote the needed time, and I remain as chief encourager during that crisis time.

4. Work harder than your mentor.

Don’t waste your mentor’s time. Show up with well thought through and relevant questions. Take notes. Work hard to practice what was discussed, and the next time you talk, tell him or her what you have done.

A good mentor will always have some questions, a resource or two, and good advice, but the mentoring is more your job than his/hers. You set the agenda and come with it in writing. If your mentor asks you to do something, make the necessary adjustments, but do it. This does not prevent healthy disagreements and intense conversations, but you either want their advice or you don’t. If you don’t, that’s ok, but then stop taking their time and end the mentoring relationship with respect and gratitude.