Sunday, February 24, 2008

Finding Mentors: Leveraging your Business & Social Networks

With all the emphasis on Web 2.0 (2003-2008) Social Networks, it's surprising how people are shy about using their flesh-and-blood networks.

Here's a simple exercise I teach called
"Strategically Extending Your Network":
[Easy Version - 2 Steps]
(1) In each of the following 21 business areas, try listing the 1-2 people you admire the most. If you can't think of any that's ok.

Start with just 5 business areas - CEO, COO, CMO, CFO, CTO.

(2) Ask each person, who they would recommend as a mentor. I call this the "2nd-level ask". Don't ask them to be a mentor. Ask who THEIR mentors are and why they liked their mentor. It's a good time to hear their stories about what really helped them...

- Executive (CEO)
- Vision (CVO)
- Strategy (CSO)
- Risk (CRO)
- Innovation (CIO)
- Networking (CNO)
- Business Development
- Operations (COO)
- Finance (CFO)
- Marketing (CMO)
- Sales (CSO)
- Technology (CTO)
- Creative (CCO)
- Human Resources (Corporate Culture)
- Legal
- Fund-raising - Equity (Angel, VC, Investment Bank, Commercial Bank)
- Fund-raising - Non-Profit Development (CDO)
- Project Management
- Corporate Governance
- Board Members (Directors/Advisors)
- Entrepreneurs

[Medium Version]
Before you talk to the people on your list:

(3) Write down "why" you admire them? What makes your COO or VP of Operations friend, an operations person that you admire?

(3A) ....if you have no clue what an "operations" person does, this could be a could conversation to have...

(4) Do some research on each person before you talk to them. Google them and find a bio/resume, or look at their LinkedIn Resume & Connections. Find out which companies/organizations they worked for. Which schools did they attend? What are their interests in life?

(5) In each business area, list the 1-2 famous people you admire in each area.

(6) Do some research on each "famous person" and try to find connections with your friends. Any similar companies, schools, interests, etc...

[Hard Version]
(7) Sit down with your business partners and try to extend your networks as a group.
(8) Sit down with other experts and ...

This could potentially be a LOT of exploring.

Tip #1: For most busy people, 1 or 2 questions might be all you should start with....unless you find "traction" and they are finding it fun to share stories.

It's REALLY easy to get help, if you make it FUN, and help people feel like they are improving the world.

It's VERY difficult to get help, if you insist on telling the 15-minute version of your company mission. Especially if helping you is going to be like a trip to the dentist (Apologies to the nice dentists out there...) VALUE THEIR TIME... Don't waste it.

Tip #2: Ask specific questions! No open-ended stuff...

Don't ask "Which CEO's do you admire?"

Ask "How did you like Jack Welch's style as a CEO?"

"I really admire Person X who was XYZ position at your old company ABC. Did you like them as a person? I was looking for possible mentors, and was wondering if you could recommend them."

- Mitchell Tsai (Harvard '86) - CEO, Spiritual Business Companions : FriendFeed, LinkedIn, Facebook

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