3 Key Mentor Relationships Every Leader Must Have

In Water The Bamboo, my book on leadership and teamwork, I encourage Bamboo Farmers to create a Bamboo Circle. A Bamboo Circle is made up of interconnected relationships that help a Bamboo Farmer reach their goals.


Whatever your profession, whether you are a leader, sales person or an entrepreneur, I believe there are three key relationships that an effective Bamboo Circle must have: 1. Mentor, 2. Peer Mentor, and 3. Mentee. These three relationships will give you the insight to succeed and provide different perspectives that you would not have without them.

Here's an overview of how to identify each of these relationships in your life and how you can benefit:

1. Mentor

Find a mentor that is more senior than you and has more professional experience in your field. Pick someone who is able and willing to help you navigate your career for the long-term. Seek a person with high moral character and who is respected in their organization and in their field. Spending time with this person and learning from them will help you stay on track.

Getting a mentor is the shortcut to success.
— Bo Sanchez

2. Peer Mentor

This should be someone who’s at the same or similar stage in their career as you. It’s key to have someone that understands your current situation and can see it in a new light. Why? Because peer mentors are meant to grow with you, to learn from you, and be by your side during challenges. The ideal situation is where you can confidentially bounce ideas off each other and compare notes without pressure or feeling judged.

We all need someone who inspires us to do better than we know how.

3. Mentee

Your mentee is someone whom you can help guide and coach over the terrain that you have already traveled. Be sure to ask your mentee lots of open-ended and open-minded questions and take time to listen. Mentorship is not about your answers but more about the answers a mentee is able to discover for themselves. You will be surprised how much you will learn and grow through your mentee relationship.

Be the mentor you wish you had.

After you establish your three key relationships, here are some tips on how to keep those relationships healthy and strong:

  • Meet with each one separately once a month.
    Whether you meet with them in person or via the phone, be sure to keep up with these conversations monthly. This is your chance to check in, to hear what’s going on for them, and to share your perspective.

  • Prepare questions and ideas ahead of time.
    As you go about your daily life, write down any questions, ideas, and challenges you want to run by your three mentor relationships. This is a good way to ensure a robust monthly conversation.

You don’t have to have all the answers, you just have to be willing to share what you know.
  • Go with the right intent.
    Go into all three relationships to give and support. You will benefit from your three key relationships, and many of these benefits will be unknown right away.

A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.

Please add to the conversation—comment below or on Twitter at @gregbellspeaks.