If you've been wondering about the benefits of a mentor, then look no further than Britain's own tennis champion Andy Murray for inspiration.
In claiming the Wimbledon title in 2013, the Scot achieved his ultimate career goal - the huge prize he had been working towards since childhood. His achievement in winning on grass at SW19 - and in doing so, ending the 77-year wait for a male British champion - was truly momentous. It was a fantastic personal triumph for Murray, not just as a sportsman, but also as an individual and a professional.
There's no doubt that Murray's skills, dedication, form and good timing all played a part in his new-found success. However, much has been said about the benefits of a mentor, the influence of coach Ivan Lendl, who joined Murray's team at the start of 2012. The appointment of the Czech legend delivered almost instant results, bringing about a significant improvement in his pupil's game.
Lendl used his vast knowledge and experience - as an eight-time Grand Slam winner and former world number one - to iron out some of Murray's technical flaws and mental weaknesses. This gave him the confidence to back his ability and beat the very best in the world. At the US Open in September 2012, he did just that - beating the defending champion Novak Djokovic in a five-set final. Then, nine months later, Murray fulfilled his destiny, by trouncing the Serb in straight sets on Centre Court, to the delight of a watching nation.
How did Murray's mentor help?
Andy Murray had long been seen as a future Wimbledon champion, but every year he seemed to fall just short. Some had started to wonder whether Murray would ever achieve his full potential, or continue to fall short. A change of coach and mentor in 2012 seemed to make a huge difference to Murray's game, and his results as a professional.
Despite belonging to different generations, the two men had similar influences and experiences, meaning Lendl could be an ideal mentor to the younger man. He helped Murray develop new-found mental toughness and resilience, and add all-important aggression to his game.
When Murray split from Lendl in 2014, after a hugely profitable two-year relationship, he was quick to recognise the benefits of a mentor and the contribution made by his coach. The Wimbledon champion said he was "eternally grateful" for the help and career advice he had received from his mentor, noting that it had contributed to the most successful period of his career. "As a team, we’ve learned a lot and it will definitely be of benefit in the future," Murray added.
His original coach - Judy, his mother - also praised the contribution of Lendl in helping her son become Wimbledon champion. She said the Czech mentor made "a really big difference" to Murray, in terms of emotional control on the court, and this helped him play his best tennis for longer periods of time. "We all owe him a lot," Judy added.
What are the benefits of a mentor?
Whether you're a tennis professional gearing up for this year's Wimbledon championships, or a professional looking to progress your career, there are plenty benefits of a mentor, and reasons to seek assistance. Rather than going it alone, ambitious individuals can gain input from a knowledgeable third-party, who is able to draw on their own experience and understanding to offer relevant support and advice. This can help you move up to the next level.
An experienced mentor can help in a number of different ways, including:
- Offering a fresh perspective; encouraging individuals to challenge perceived norms.
- Sharing their own experiences; explaining influences, behaviours and outcomes, to assist with future decision-making and priority-setting.
- Giving objective feedback on performance, skills, relationships and other key areas, to help overcome weaknesses and maximise strengths.
- Providing focus for professional development, in terms of identifying goals and setting targets for the future.
- Teaching new skills, developing knowledge and equipping professionals to move forwards in their careers
- Facilitating networking with other experienced/influential individuals, who may be in a position to assist professional development
- Advising on ethics, business culture, norms and conventions, which can help make individuals more rounded professionals
- Lending an ear in confidence - allowing professionals to celebrate successes and/or air frustrations in private
Finding the right mentor can - as Andy Murray showed - act as the catalyst for greater career success. It can help professionals define their goals, outline a plan of action and execute this plan effectively. Rather than making the same mistakes others have in the past, the benefit of a mentor is that individuals can adopt intelligent, informed approaches which help them get to where they want to be.