One of the things I learned while writing one of my books, Greater Than Yourself, is that finding a mentor can be difficult — but finding a protégé is even more daunting.
And, I would argue, far more important.
There’s no perfect way to pick someone. But since we’re in the closing days of National Mentoring Month, this is the perfect time to start figuring it out for yourself.
Start by making a list of people you feel drawn to — people you find yourself naturally wanting to help if you will allow yourself to fully experience that impulse.
Resist the inclination to put strict parameters around picking a protégé — or what I call a GTY relationship, short for Greater Than Yourself. It’s the super-charged version of mentoring.
It goes beyond “being helpful” and involves investing in someone else to the profound degree that it raises that person above yourself. That type of relationship is an act of love.
We’re talking about an extension of yourself to somebody else. You simply cannot assign that, and you can’t put any kind of barriers or parameters on it. So it can be anyone from any area of your life, as long as it’s someone you truly want to help.
These seven questions can help you discern the best fit for your protégé:
1. Who do you trust?
Who are the people in your life you would trust with your life — or, at the very least, with your knowledge, your contacts, your advice, your dreams, your aspirations, and any deeply held secrets that might be relevant for this person?
2. Who do you believe in?
We’ve all had people in our lives who had greater confidence in us than we had in ourselves. Turn that around: Who do you believe in even more than they believe in themselves?
Who do you really think you can help rise to heights greater than what you’ve been able to achieve? Who do you believe in based on things like their capabilities and their character?
3. Who could benefit from the help you can give?
You might have somebody you trust deeply and really believe in, but you don’t have the knowledge or experience to help them achieve their dreams and goals.
You can encourage and support them, just as any friend would do. But you want to find somebody whose aspirations line up with your abilities to help achieve those aspirations.
4. Who will use what you’re giving?
You want a protégé with the energy, drive, and work ethic to follow through on things and take full advantage of what you have to give them.
I’ve offered ideas, contacts, and support to colleagues only to see them do absolutely nothing with it. And I got discouraged.
If I give you advice on who to call and you don’t make that call, or if I give you advice on how you can adjust your marketing materials and you don’t create any marketing materials, I’m not going to keep offering myself to you.
5. Who aligns with your values?
Pick somebody whose core beliefs, principles, and values are congruent and consistent with yours. Not identical.
You don’t need a clone or potential clone. In fact, the more diverse the person’s background, experiences, and personality, the better for you — and the better for all of us. Still, on a very deep level, you want somebody who’s very congruent with your values.
6. Who do you admire?
My friends Pat Lencioni and Matthew Kelly co-wrote the foreword to Greater Than Yourself. Pat had a Greater Than Yourself relationship with Matthew, although they hadn’t attached that terminology to it at the time. One of the things that drew Pat to Matthew was his deep admiration for Matthew’s message, his mission in life, and his ability to inspire people through his writing.
A GTY relationship is reciprocal. As humans, we’re not greater than each other; we complement each other. So while we’re giving to someone, we’re also receiving because we see in them something we admire and want to emulate ourselves.
7. Who do you love?
We’re back to the L word. Do you love this person? Or, at the very least, care deeply about this person? Are you concerned for the quality of their life and their ability to reach their dreams and achieve their aspirations? Does sacrificing to serve their needs feel intuitive and natural?
So, who will you invest in? Answer that question today. Investing in someone else – helping them become greater than yourself – is a gift you can and should give, and it will accelerate your personal growth at the same time.
Don’t miss that opportunity.
[This post was originally published on my weekly column at Inc.com]