I’ve been thinking a lot about mentors this year and even more so over the last few weeks spurred on by something Bing Gordon talked about in the A Serious Take on Internet Game Play video (listen from 36.00 to 38.20 mins). In this he states one of his biggest mistakes he made was not recruiting a mentor.
I consider myself to have been very lucky in the last 10 years as I have been around some very experienced, wise and generally pretty smart people. This has allowed me to develop quite rapidly and take on some meaty roles and amounts of responsibility.
The more I’ve thought about it though; I’ve realized that I’m more surrounded by experienced and smart people (bosses, colleagues, smart friends, parents etc.) than having a mentor in the true sense.
Bing points out that a mentor is typically:
- Someone who is older than you – probably one generation above
- Has no control over you (bosses, parents etc.)
- Has no rewards – other than joy
- Gives good advice
I would also add a couple of other things to consider:
- should have already achieved where you want to get to
- strengths should suit where you are weaker
- needs to be a healthy level of respect and trust between you and them – conversations need to be completely candid
- should be somewhat detached from what you currently do (this helps them advice with an external, fresh perspective)
I also love the way Bing references it to playing a game of chess. You cannot afford to waste moves in a chess game – it’s very costly. A mentor can help you to avoid making bad chess moves and bad chess moves in real life equate to wasted years.
I’ve put a bit of work into finding a mentor lately and I’ve identified someone who is ultimately where I want to be in 5-7 years – a brilliant CEO who has worked hard to build a very sucessful business and cares just as much about building a great company as he does building a great business. This person has bundles of success and experience in areas I will need to make decisions in and develop over the coming years so I’m really hoping I can evolve some early conversations with this person into a more formal mentor relationship.
I also have two other people who I lean on heavily for advice who I am sure they won’t mind me mentioning them.
Richard Leech has helped me significantly in the last couple of years since returning to Jagex as VP of RuneScape and then Chief Operating Officer. His strategic and leadership direction / advice has helped me make a few good chess moves and avoid a few bad ones – and having someone to bounce around challenges and decisions with has been absolutely invaluable.
Richard Barnwell is someone I have gigantic respect for. We worked together at Jagex and he has since gone on to take on a couple of COO roles, a CEO role and more recently started his own VC backed games studio Digit Games. Richard is one of the most confident individuals I know and strategically very smart – I often lean on him when making big decisions. We also seem to have a natural ability to come up with ground breaking, innovative HR concepts but that’s for another blog post.
Last but definitely not least, my family (parents and brothers particularly) have been people I have leaned on for big decisions my whole life. I guess it’s easy to take that for granted but when you look back on what has influenced my life and the big decisions throughout it, they are a big part of that.
Any comments or questions on mentors – comment below!