As a result of taking on that challenge to “go get a 5-star mentor!“, today I met for the first time my latest mentor.
My 5-Star Mentor
To protect his privacy, I will call my mentor “Mr. Juan Halili”.
Rather apt as I will look to him for guidance as “one” of my mentors (pag-halili).
Mr. Halili is a very accomplished executive with 40 years of experience in various industries, turning around two companies from their bad shape, and having received numerous awards for the excellent management and growth of some of the Philippines’ top companies.
I had the opportunity to spend 40 minutes with Mr. Halili today on the pre-text of a mentoring relationship.
In this article, I will describe my invitation and how I prepared for our first meeting. I will also describe key lessons I got from our first conversation.
I sent my letter of invitation via email. Here are excerpts from my letter:
Hi Sir Juan,
I would very much be honored if you would accept my invitation for lunch or coffee.
Allow me to (1) introduce myself, (2) explain my purpose for this invitation, (3) and why I believe it is worth your while to accept my invitation.
I am Edwin Soriano, 34 years old, an Electrical Engineer, technology-analyst, blogger, trainer and speaker among other things.
I am proud to be a Filipino and proud to be serving Filipinos through my work in Smart.
Purpose for invite
We were urged to find ourselves a “5-Star Mentor”!
It was an easy nudge for me as I have personally been searching for a mentor.
What’s in it for Sir Juan?
I hope that you will find exceptional value in sharing your life-lessons to a dynamic young-man who is eager to learn from you.
I would very much be honored if you would accept my invitation for lunch or coffee.
I hope I could reasonably ask for one simple lunch-date with you, Sir.
On Thursday April 30, I will approach your assistant to gather your feedback regarding this invitation.
I received a reply within a few hours of sending my email. My invitation was accepted and I was asked to meet Mr. Halili two days later. Yey!
Preparing for our first meeting
Over a solo-dinner last night, I formulated a structure for my short conversation with Mr. Halili.
First I will connect.
Re-introduce my role in my company.
Introduce myself further (UP, volunteer teacher, Foundation for IT Education and Development, AIM, Intel, PSI)
I want him to know that we have a couple of things in common.
At the very least, I want him to recognize my passion to serve Filipinos through the work I do.
I also want to lay down the cards to him.
I want to be clear that I am here primarily to learn lessons from his career and personal life.
I will tell him what I had prepared for this first meeting with him. (5 questions)
I will reserve 5 minutes at the tail-end to close.
I prepared 5 questions and we can discuss 2 or more depending on how our conversation goes.
- What do you consider as your single most important habit/skill that helped you excell in your career? Why?
- What has been your most important avenue for learning, something that you’d encourage me or my peers to engage ourselves in?
- What is your vision of a highly-effective workforce?
- What advise regarding work-life balance would you give for a young man like me?
- What books do you read? What do you recommend that would help boost my effectivity as a professional in my field?
- propose to meet him again once every three months, find out if he is open to this arrangement
- ask Juan if there’s anything I can do for him — this is a question about me bringing something to the table next time around. I wanted him to find value in meeting with me.
- a photograph
As additional preparation, I also got ready to answer a few questions Mr. Halili might ask me:
- What is my vision, my purpose? Edwin’s short answer: “Help More Thus Be More“
- What is my vision for my career and for my company?
My first meeting with Mr. Halili
I was at his office 15 minutes before my appointment. While waiting to be called in, I reviewed my self-introduction and my questions. I had a notebook at hand for my notes.
When I was ushered in, I approached Mr. Halili at his work desk and gave him a firm handshake (something I learned from KElmer and from UPSCA). I told him my name and reminded him about the email I had sent two days earlier. He showed me to a round glass table where we took seats to begin our conversation.
As planned, I clarified with him that I was there to learn from him, to listen. And before I could proceed, he asked me what to tell him more about myself.
In my self-introduction, I made sure to mention the few things that I knew we had in common. There was a connection, we had built a certain rapport within our first 5 minutes ;-) . He is, afterall, a very down-to-earth person.
Q&A with Mr. Juan Halili
I then continued to my questions. Here are a few key points in our discussion. The essence of the conversation is re-constructed from my notes and from memory.
Edwin: What do you consider as your single most important habit/skill that helped you excell in your career? Why?
Mr. Halili: (After giving much thought) Perception of humans. Humans are there to contribute. From this point of view, you will learn to appreciate that people who work for you or with you have a lot to contribute to success. This perception of humans brings out the best in people.
It is important to listen. Power comes by listening, not by talking.
Edwin: What has been your most important avenue for learning, something that you would encourage me or my peers to engage ourselves in?
Reading. I learned a lot through books.
I consider myself blessed to have had many good mentors early on. Early in my career, I already had many good bosses.
I was exposed to high levels of leadership early in my career helped me understand strategy and managing an organization.
I was also very lucky to have been given leadership positions early in my career. Nothing beats being in-the-line. When your neck is in the line, you have no choice but to perform well and rise to the occassion. When so much is at stake, you will bring out the best in yourself.
I just kept on moving, kept on going.
Edwin: What is your vision of a highly effective workforce?
Mr. Halili: Creativity and Innovation. It is important that an organization institutionalize creativity and innovation. It’s the only way to keep up with or keep ahead of the demands of the industry and the market.
Less ego, less problems.
Intersperesed in our question and answer, there were many nuggets of wisdom that struck me.
- You will know that you have a good handle of power when power does not handle you.
When you are able to let go of power, you know that you can handle power.
- A lesson I learned from my father is simplicity. When you’re simple, it’s easy to be happy.
- There’s always a pay-off, a price to pay for achieving things.
After Mr. Halili had answered my questions, I began my close by asking him if he was open to having a similar meeting with him once every three months. I was delighted, to say the least, when he said he was open to it. It was just a matter of finding a day where his schedule was relatively light.
I also asked him if I can help him in any way. He did ask me a few questions. They were interesting questions coming from a man of his age and stature. I choose not to publish it here to protect Mr. Halili’s privacy.
In conclusion, there is much to learn from a focused 40-minute conversation. Especially when you’re well prepared with critical questions, and especially when you’re ready to learn and listen well!
Power comes by listening, not by talking.
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