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Mentoring, Networking, And LinkedIn With Strangers, With Andy Lopata

Most organizations do not have any idea how to get access to a mentoring program to shape their leaders, or what a good one even looks like. This leads to leaders basically going with the flow, which results in disgruntled and messy teams. J.R. Lowry chats with acclaimed professional relationship strategist Andy Lopata who explores how to create the right mentor-mentee connection. He talks about the most essential elements of a good mentoring relationship, the importance of mentors keeping their ego in check, and the unique concept of ICE CREAM. Andy also shares his insights about creating connections through LinkedIn, the several books he has written, his podcast, and the application his team developed.


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Mentoring, Networking, And LinkedIn With Strangers, With Andy Lopata

This show is brought to you by PathWise is dedicated to helping you be the best professional you can be, providing a mix of career and leadership coaching, courses, content, and community. Basic membership is free, so what are you waiting for? Visit PathWise and join. My guest is Andy Lopata. Andy is an acclaimed professional relationship strategist who has worked with a variety of global clients.

He has written six books on networking and professional relationships, including his newest, The Financial Times Guide to Mentoring, which is out in certain parts of the world. He co-authored that with Dr. Ruth Gotian, who was a guest on the show not that long ago. He writes a blog for Psychology Today and has often been quoted in the media, including the Sunday Times, the Financial Times, and Inc. The Financial Times called Andy one of Europe’s leading business networking strategists, and both and The Independent called him a Master of Networking.

Andy, welcome. Thanks for joining me.

Thanks for having me.

Profession And Book

Let’s start by talking about your work. What keeps you busy?

We’ve got a new book out, which always keeps you busy. I’m having a lot of these conversations at the moment as well as my own podcast. I seem to be doing at least one podcast conversation every day. I have this with you, and then I’m recording one for my own podcast. Those are keeping me busy and then the work I do, delivering professional relationship strategy training into organizations.

Talk a little bit more about what that work entails.

I always talk about an umbrella of work. The umbrella that covers everything I do is professional relationships. In other words, how can other people help you achieve your professional goals, whether they’re individual career goals or are part of your function or your role? That can range from, for sales teams, how you generate referrals, how you create influence amongst key stakeholders, how you get in front of hard-to-access customers, and how you manage your reputation in that space as well.

You are helping people in organizations on the power of professional relationships for someone’s career, making sure that you are known by the right people for the right things at the right time so that when your name comes up in a meeting, people are there saying, “I know that person. I can validate that. I can back that up,” breaking down silos in organizations, and creating strong relationships towards innovation.

At the other end of that umbrella are topics like vulnerability. Are we willing to share? Are we willing to ask for help? Can we be vulnerable and be strong leaders at the same time? That takes us into the new book, which is about mentoring as well. Are we surrounding ourselves with the people who will help us or hold us accountable and whom we know we can turn to for their expertise and support?

Talk a little bit more about the book.

It’s The Financial Times Guide to Mentoring, which should hopefully be fairly self-explanatory. What Ruth and I wanted to do was write a comprehensive yet concise guide to effective mentoring predominantly from the mentor’s perspective and additionally from the organization’s perspective. A lot is written about mentoring in terms of being a mentee, and there’s a lot of training for people being a mentee.

We have this assumption that if you are a mentor, it’s because you’re really good at everything and you’re experienced. Therefore, you know what to do. Right. I don’t think that’s fair. That leaves a lot of mentors almost drowning, not knowing how to swim. Mentors need that guidance and support as well. Sometimes, it’s the basics. How do you create rapport with your mentee? How do you make sure that a mentoring relationship has a good chance of being successful, and how do you measure that success? How do you deal with a relationship that’s going the wrong way? Sometimes, it’s the nuanced stuff that you might not necessarily think about.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Andy Lopata | Mentoring Program

Mentoring Program: People assume that mentors should be good at everything, and that’s unfair. It leaves mentors almost drowning and now knowing how to swim. They need guidance and support as well.


We’ve got an interview with an expert on neurodivergence and ten tips on how to mentor a neurodivergent mentee. I’ve been in that position with no guidance and no way of recognizing. I don’t want other people to be in that really difficult position where that mentee had a mini breakdown in our mentoring session and I was lost at sea. What about dealing with imposter syndrome? Someone’s asked you to mentor them, but you don’t think you’re worthy. We’ve tried to be quite comprehensive in what we’ve covered and not just cover the basics.

A lot of times, people become mentors because somebody asks them to or you do one of these corporate programs where there’s a matching thing going on and people raise their hands and say, “I’ll be a mentor.” In a lot of instances, to your point, you don’t really get training on what you should do as a mentor and how to deal with different situations. I’m sure that will be quite helpful.

I hope so. This is my sixth book. I like to think that I’m an engaging writer. Even for a textbook-style book like this, we’ve tried to write it in a way that you can get lost in it and enjoy it. For Ruth, this is her second book. She has written academic papers as well. Ruth is a very good writer as well. It is that, but equally, it’s a guide. It’s a reference.

You’ve got a mentoring conversation coming up and you’re not sure how to approach it. If there’s a particular challenge in your mind, you can pick it up, flick through one of the infographics in there or one of the sections, and say, “That covers what I’m worried about,” and refresh your memory. We’ve tried to create something that is both an enjoyable read and a useful reference guide as well.


Ruth was kind enough to introduce us. She was on the show not that long ago. How did the two of you meet, and how did you end up coming to write this book together?

It’s quite a funny story. Ruth sent me a connection request on LinkedIn early in the pandemic. I don’t have an open connection policy on LinkedIn. I’m always open to people reaching out to connect with me, but you have to engage with me, and there needs to be some strong reason. The more people you don’t know in your network, the less you can leverage that network as a referral network, which is my primary purpose for LinkedIn, and there are other reasons why. I’ve written a blog, which is on my profile, 7 Reasons Not to Accept LinkedIn Connection Requests From Strangers.

The more people you do not know in your network, the less you can leverage that for referral purposes. Share on X

Ruth sent me this connection request. I didn’t know her. Her profile is very impressive. You’d be a fool not to at least reach out and say, “Why did you reach out to me? Why do you want to connect?” That’s what I did, and Ruth replied. What happened was that Dory Clark, who’s a very well-known leadership management thinker in the US and a professor at Columbia University, posted on LinkedIn a beaming picture of her holding my fourth book, Connected Leadership. Ruth had seen that and thought, “That sounds interesting,” and said she sent me a connection request.

We exchanged a couple of messages and arranged a one-hour call. It’s not something I would do often, but what she said resonated. It stemmed from there. During the pandemic, she was hosting a Zoom show on Monday evenings in New York with a number of really fantastic guests. She invited me onto it 2 or 3 times at 1:00 in the morning in the UK.

I was going to say, “That doesn’t work out with the time zone.” It worked well for you.

It was worth it for me. In one of them, I was delivering a talk to an Australian client at 3:00 AM. I did Ruth’s show at 1:00 AM and it kept me going until 3:00. I joined that a couple of times. We started corresponding regularly, talking regularly, and making introductions through each other. She came onto my podcast as a monthly guest in the early days of my podcast. We started building that strong relationship.

I knew after my fifth book that I wanted mentoring to be my next book. I had a list of five people split between the UK and the US who I saw as potential co-authors, and Ruth was one of them. I got to the point where I was going to ask all of them to collaborate and I thought, “That’s too much of a mess, too many chats.”

I reached out to Ruth to co-author, and then we invited the others to contribute. We interviewed them. We’ve included them and their perspectives in the book, but it was Ruth and mine. That’s how it came about. We didn’t meet in person until after we had finished writing the book. She came back to the UK at the end of 2023.

Podcasts And Other Books

That’s where I met her when she was over for The Thinkers 50 Conference. You’ve mentioned some of your books, but you said the sixth book. What are the other ones about?

I realized in 2023 that if you look at my books, they provide a narrative of my career over the last several years. My first book was at the time I was running a network of business breakfast meetings. It was co-authored with two others. It’s called Building a Business on Bacon and Eggs. It’s how to run business breakfast meetings. Part of that is how to network at events.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Andy Lopata | Mentoring Program

I joined the Professional Speaking Association as well. The second book was called …and Death Came Third! It was a defensive guide to networking and speaking in public. It was based on a New York Times survey of social anxiety. What are people most scared of? Death came third. The top two fears were walking into a room full of strangers and speaking in public. By my third book, I was doing a lot of referral strategy training. That was published by the Financial Times. It’s called Recommended: How to Sell Through Networking Referrals.

As we went into the pandemic, I was turning my attention a lot more to the individual use of building professional relationships and beyond the sales aspect of it. I wrote the book that I mentioned before called Connected Leadership. That was published in 2020. Although that book was written quickly, my next book had been written over three years and redrafted several times. I published a book called Just Ask!: Why Seeking Support is Your Greatest Strength. That was the vulnerability piece, and then we’ve got The Financial Times Guide to Mentoring.

A common thread of the relationships that you talked about right at the outset, but some tangentially very different things, too.

Different perspectives on it and different things for different people. People say to me, “Which book of yours should I read?” I say, “What is it you’re trying to achieve?”

Talk about your podcast.

The podcast is called The Connected Leadership Podcast. It was kicked off around the same time as the book Connected Leadership came out. The premise of the podcast is that professional relationships enhance executive success. My guests are a mixture of subject matter experts, very much like I am guesting on your show. We’ll have people talking about related subject matter topics that might be negotiation or imposter syndrome.

We had Dr. Amy Edmondson on psychological safety. I can’t have anyone better on that topic than Amy Edmondson. I’ve had a lot of sports stars. I interviewed, and this is a forthcoming episode, depending on when this one goes out, a three-time Olympian, two-time gold medalist, and the president of the US Olympic and Paralympic Association, a former US Olympic Rower. We’re going to do an Olympic and Paralympic series for obvious reasons.

For your British audience, we had Pat Nevin on the podcast, a very well-known English former professional footballer. He was a phenomenal footballer. He stood out from everyone else because, in the ‘80s, he was there ignoring all the upmarket trendy nightclubs, going to The Smiths gigs, and speaking out in favor of gay people, against racism, and so on when he was playing for Chelsea who were not the most forward-thinking football club, particularly on the terraces. Pat was fascinating. We’ve had NASA astronauts, symphonic conductors, and a whole range of fantastic guests. In some cases, you’ll go to the subject matter they’re an expert on, and in others, they get to tell their story. The listeners draw the lessons on relationships from that.

LinkedIn Connections

Before we dive into mentorship, I want to come back to your point about LinkedIn connections. I’m the opposite of you. I, for the most part, will take LinkedIn connections. I think of LinkedIn as spreading the word on some of the things I’m doing, so I look at it not so much for referrals. I’m curious to hear some of your seven reasons, and I’ll check out your article.

First of all, you have to be clear about what your purpose is. I do not criticize open networkers if they’re strategic about why they’re open networkers. My friends have massive LinkedIn networks because they use it as a broadcast or marketing tool, which is what you are talking about. I have a bit of FOMO, a Fear Of Missing Out, because I know that if I used it in that way, it would amplify my voice and more people would engage with what I have to say. Therefore, I might sell more books and attract more inquiries as a marketing tool.

I’ve got friends who use it brilliantly as inbound marketing because of the way that they use it, but I teach professional relationships and have always used LinkedIn. It’s a phenomenally powerful referral tool. If I’m looking to get into a particular organization or meet someone in particular, I can find people who are mutual connections, but if I don’t know 90% of my connections, that creates too much noise to make that effective. It makes it almost impossible to wade through those mutual connections. That’s why it doesn’t really work for me.

There are other downsides as well. There is associated trust involved in connecting with people on LinkedIn. Think about how many times people connect with you and say, “We’ve got 50 mutual connections.” They’re using that to create credibility in and trust in your mind as to why you should connect with them. If you’re an open networker, what’s to say you know those mutual connections? I always say to them, “You don’t know me. How do I know you know these other people?”

When Ruth connected with me and I saw some very high-level mutual connections, I said, “How well do you know these people?” When I knew she knew them, that brought the trust. It was not the fact that she was connected to them, but she knew them. I’m very conscious of my responsibility to other people in my network who might invest more trust in someone because I’m connected to them. That’s quite a heavy responsibility to take. For me, that’s important.

You’ve got the challenge of phishing. The more open you are, the more people can take that information and use it elsewhere. That’s less of an issue on LinkedIn than it is on other platforms like Facebook, but we have to be aware of that as well. I’m not a big fan of being spammed. It also opens the door to a huge amount of spam, so there’s a challenge with that.

There are a couple of reasons why not, and there are good reasons why as well. As long as people make informed opinions about why they’re doing something, I’ve got no problem with it. My problem is we live in a culture where people think you have to do this because everyone tells you to and they haven’t thought it through. We need to be strategic in our thinking. If that’s the right phrase, there are different horses for different courses.

I will agree. One of the significant things that I don’t like about LinkedIn is that it’s great in many ways, but the messaging feature is a dumpster fire. It’s the amount of spam that you get and the crazy messages. I had one from somebody who I did not know messaging me for the second time with a picture of somebody spinning around in circles.

It was a scene from The Office where somebody was spinning around their desk chair in circles. She was like, “This is me trying to get your attention,” as they’re chasing the person around as they’re spinning their desk. I’m like, “You’re never going to get my attention now.” Microsoft, which owns LinkedIn, should do better than that. I’ll leave it at that. We will move on to mentoring.

That person doesn’t get past my first filter. What happens is that they send me a LinkedIn connection request, and 5% of them get deleted straight away because they’re sales or spam. The rest get the same message Ruth got, which says, “This is how I use LinkedIn, but I don’t want to ignore you, so please tell me why you’d like to connect.”

If they then send me, as someone did, a huge long CV and bio of who they are, they’re out. I didn’t ask you. It might be really interesting and I might be missing out, but the fact that your communication or response to my question on why you would like to connect is about you and not me is a warning sign. It’s a red flag.

Seventy-five percent or maybe more don’t reply. I think, “What’s the point of connecting unless I’m purely broadcasting to you?” Maybe I’ve cut off my notes to spite my face there, but this is my method. I’ve had people who I would see as ideal potential clients, so I’ve reached out and said, “Thanks for inviting me to connect. Why would you like to connect? Tell me more.” If they don’t reply, what’s the point? They’re not going to engage with me. It’s not a good first sign, so I’ll go based on the response. That’s a great filter to get rid of those people. I still get an occasional one like that, but they’re out the door straight away, like you.


On to mentoring. What inspired you to become so passionate about this topic?

I’ve given a lot of talks over the years for women’s networks in large organizations. Mentoring has become a topic of discussion quite often in these presentations. Whether it’s in the presentation, the Q&A, or the discussion afterward, it tends to come up. What I’ve seen over the years quite commonly is people have no idea how to access the mentoring program within their organization or whether it even is one. That’s a problem for me. Mentoring is incredibly powerful. Whether it’s formal or informal, I’ve relied on it throughout my career, and we pay lip service to it. Ruth would’ve shared the stats with you. She’s the data queen. She’s the academic between us.

She’d pull them right away.

Exactly. I’ll let people refer back to Ruth’s powerful recitation of the stats, no doubt, for those. The stats are compelling where if you are mentored, you earn more, you achieve more, and you have more job satisfaction than if you’re not. If you have an effective mentoring program, you will retain and recruit more staff. Yet, we treat it as an afterthought, along with much of what I teach around professional relationships. We take our relationships for granted, and we get quite complacent about them.

I’ve been talking about mentoring on and off in different ways for a number of years. I’ve run a few mentoring training programs for companies. It’s not been the core of what I do, but it’s been a consistent theme throughout what I do. When I wrote Just Ask!, I wrote a chapter about mentoring and masterminding. It felt to me that there was more to explore on the topic and that something deeper was needed.

When I started looking at what’s out there, there were some good books on mentoring, but there wasn’t anything that approached it in the way that I outlined earlier. Ruth and I felt that the book we would want as a mentor wasn’t easily found, so it felt right to do something about that and dive deeper. I also found over the last few years that I was being approached more to deliver sessions on mentoring for mentors, and there was a huge gap in my thoughts and understanding on that topic.

Cultural Differences

The case is compelling for the mentee. Ruth quotes the statistics. You’ve referenced them. What’s the case for being a mentor?

It depends on where you come from. First of all, number one is the commercial case. Ruth would disagree with me on this. It’s interesting. As an American living in the UK, you may have seen both perspectives. I don’t know. What I found from conversations with Ruth, Dory Clark, and others is that there is a cultural difference between the US and the UK in terms of how mentoring is perceived.

In the US, people wouldn’t think of charging for or paying for mentoring. In the UK, you have the Association of Business Mentors, which has members who charge for mentoring. I charge for mentoring. I have both commercial clients and pro bono clients. My commercial clients will be coming to me for my expertise in professional relationships.  Mentoring is one of the ways I deliver that expertise.

Maybe I’d be called a coach in the US, but I see the difference between the two in a slightly different way. If there is a commercial benefit, there is a commercial benefit, maybe more UK than the US. If you’re in another country reading this, you tell me what the culture is there. That’s number one, but there are much greater benefits to mentors than just that.

The second one is learning for yourself and developing for yourself. For many years, I’ve mentored and am masterminding peer group mentoring effectively for those who haven’t come across it. I have found that when I have been in a position where I’m trying to find a solution or help navigate towards a solution for someone else’s challenge, I learn through that process. It’s a way of reflecting and thinking about business problems and career challenges in a way you wouldn’t do otherwise. In the conversations you have, you also get different perspectives and ideas, even if that’s with a single mentee.

The second benefit to the mentor is that time away from your day job to reflect on the bigger questions, some of which may impact you as well. Even if they don’t directly, they develop you. I believe they make you a more rounded, experienced, and wiser person. That’s the second.

I’m going to leave the most powerful one to last. For the third, let’s talk specifically about workplace mentoring. We talked about those programs within organizations, so that person within the organization who’s mentoring. Particularly, I’m thinking about what Ruth and I term traditional hierarchical mentoring. I’m the senior executive mentoring the junior person. I am investing in the future of our company or our organization.

I’ve written an article on this for professional services, Advisory Magazine. We’re talking about partners in professional services firms mentoring. Partners have a fiduciary interest in the success of people in the business, so mentoring them is an investment in the business. You are upskilling your workforce and enabling them to achieve more, and you are more likely to retain top talent because you’re investing in them. You are more likely to attract top talent because people see how they are treated if they come into the organization.

That act of mentoring people and lifting them elevates the organization as a whole and has an impact on the bottom line. Recruitment and retention is one of the biggest issues I’m coming across when I’m talking to organizations at the moment. Anything that aids that has got to be a good thing. The final benefit to mentors is the sheer pleasure and joy of seeing people succeed based on what you’ve done.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Andy Lopata | Mentoring Program

Mentoring Program: Recruitment and retention are some of the biggest issues of many organizations these days. Anything that aids in addressing them is a good thing.


I was in a local school. I go in every year in May. They do an event called What’s My Line? There’s a famous TV game show, What’s My Line? People had to guess what people did for a living. They’re year nine students. They’re about fourteen years old, around that. They’re starting to think of careers or being encouraged to start thinking about careers. A group of local business people go in. In teams of about 6 or 7, they have 20 questions to ask you and try to guess what you do for a living. One of the questions I got asked quite a lot, which was on a prompt card, was what I enjoy most about what I do. My answer every time was the impact I have on people.

When someone comes back to me and says, “As a result of what you did, this happened. I got this job,” or, “I saw things a different way,” or, “I’m more engaged in that,” or, “I won this client,” or whatever it might be, that is the biggest pleasure. When I found out that my name had become a verb among the team at one of my biggest clients, where they said, “I’m doing an Andy Lopata,” and everyone knew what it meant, that was one of the most pleasurable moments I’ve had in my career because you know you’re making an impact.

Essential Elements

What do you think are the essential elements of a good mentoring relationship?

The most important thing to me is clarity and focus. You both understand what you’re trying to achieve. You continually reflect and review that and change course if necessary, but you’re communicating all the time. Tied into that is accountability. It’s not, “Let’s have a conversation and forget about it,” but, “Come back next month and tell me how you got on.” You hold honest to it.

The chemistry between the mentor and mentee is important. The reason I changed the word rapport is because rapport is important, but rapport implies you get on really well. You don’t have to. There has to be chemistry, but you don’t have to like each other, and that can be a danger. If you like each other too much, the mentee will spend too much time trying to impress the mentor and therefore, not opening up to where they might not be doing things right.  Respect is important and the ability to listen to each other and both sides.

Another key thing, and it’s related to what I said, is letting go of ego. Both sides need to let go of the ego, the mentee so they can open up, and the mentor so they can be vulnerable in what they share as well. Your mentee will learn from your mistakes as much, if not more, than from your successes. They’ll relate to you more if you step off your pedestal and don’t try to impress them all the time.

The other reason a mentor has to let go of ego is that your mentee may not take your advice, and that is fine. If you choose to be a LinkedIn open networker, I’m fine with that. You can read my article on seven reasons not to connect with strangers, listen to what I suggest, and say, “It works for me. I’ve reflected on that. I appreciate and respect what you said, but that’s not right for me.” I respect that completely.

The mentor needs to let go of their ego in terms of their mentee not taking their advice. If they’re ignoring your advice every single time, you might want to reflect on whether you are the right mentor for them. Maybe contentiously, I’d argue you could still be. If you’re the type of mentor that gets them to think about things before making a decision, even if they’re not following your advice, you’re having an impact.


That’s very true. You have a mnemonic in the book that you use to describe the responsibilities of a mentor, ICE CREAM. Do you want to briefly describe it? I won’t make you go through all eight letters.

I will be open. This is Ruth Gotian’s mnemonic rather than mine. She brought this to the table. I’ll pick a couple of the things out of there and highlight them if you like. The ICE is Introduce, Connect, and Engage. The CREAM is to Create opportunities, Reply, Encourage, Amplify, and Motivate. I’m going to pick a couple of those things there and talk about those, and that is Introduce and Amplify.

A good mentor won’t take the room where the two of you are there, the closed walls, and give their advice. They will also open up their network to their mentee. Those are two ways they can do it. You might not have all the answers. There may be people in your network who are better qualified to give the answers, guidance, and advice than you are. Open up your network to your mentee, particularly in that traditional hierarchical relationship, because you are more likely to have a higher level and more experienced network than your mentee will.

Open up your network to your mentee, particularly in a traditional hierarchical relationship. You are more likely to have a higher level and a more experienced network than your mentee will. Share on X

The Amplify element is a mentor can act as a sponsor and advocate for their mentee. Particularly when you’re career-focused, not only are you helping them with their objectives and goals, but when opportunities come up and people need to hear about them, you can be shouting their name from the rooftops. Pick a couple of those elements of the mnemonic to focus on, not being the one-to-one relationship but everyone else you can bring to the table behind you. You can make a huge impact as a mentor.

Biggest Challenge

What are some of the challenges that you have to contend with when you’re in one of these relationships from either perspective other than this lack of chemistry or fit?

The biggest challenge is time, as it is with most of the things that I teach. Yet, both parties have to see the time as an investment, not a cost. Understand what you’re trying to achieve and how mentoring is going to help you get there. The way you justify an investment is by the return on investment. That’s where that clarity comes in. That’s a big challenge for many people. We get busy, and that impacts the mentoring relationships in two ways.

Number one is damaging or harming the moment of the relationship because you stop meeting on a frequent basis, particularly in a formal mentoring relationship. You need to treat the mentoring conversation as you would a client if you are client-focused as important. It can’t be bumped that easily. It’s got to be written in stone or into your diary, irrespective of what’s happening. If you’re under pressure and struggling, it’s even more important to step away from it and have that conversation. It can harm it from that perspective.

There’s then doing the work. There have been times I’ve been working with mentees and they open the conversation with an apology because they’ve not been able to do anything since the last session. Where does that leave us in terms of conversation? There’s no way to go. When I’m putting mentoring programs together, I tend to find that 6 to 8 weekly meetings are better than monthly because they give time. You’ve got to find that balance between giving time for people to do things but not losing the momentum of the conversation and being able to remember what you talked about last time.

Time is the biggest challenge to a mentoring relationship. In an organization, it might be support for it. If you are in a team and you are being mentored, are your colleagues supportive when you take that time away from the team in busy times to have a chat about your career? Is your manager supportive of it as well? You really need that support from the people around you to give you the confidence to take that mentoring relationship and grab it with both hands. You need the support of people around you to help you to do that.

If I were to pick a third, and it picks up a part of the conversation from earlier, it is Ego. You’re letting your ego get in the way. You’re turning up your mentoring meeting and saying, “I’m great. Everything’s fine,” when it’s not. I was in a mastermind group many years ago with fellow speakers. One of my fellow speakers in the group used to phone me a couple of weeks before the meeting. We’d travel all over the country to meet each other.

He would moan and say, “I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s a whole day. I’ve got nothing to share.” Each of us would share a challenge in the meeting and we’d try to come up with a solution. He’d be like, “I’ve got no challenges.” A year later, he said to me, “I can’t make this work. I’m thinking of leaving the profession.” This is after the mastermind group had closed. I’m like, “Why did you never say anything in those meetings? That’s what it’s for.” Someone else in that group did leave the profession and went into teaching because they couldn’t make it work. It was like, “Why is this the first we’re hearing of it?”

Both parties have to commit to it. I’ve certainly, as a mentor, been in situations where people haven’t done the work and haven’t come prepared. It’s really hard to help. The primary obligation, if you will, for the success of the relationship lies with the mentee, at least in my view. If they’re not putting the work in it, it’s hard when you’re a mentor.

I would agree with you. In that commercial relationship, I take my role as mentor, more seriously is the wrong term, but I take on more of the onus driving it. It’s the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” I can stress, “You’ve got to turn up at the meeting and do this work,” but if the mentee turns up at the meeting and hasn’t done anything, there is nothing I can do about it.

You made reference to the fact that mentoring and coaching aren’t necessarily the same. For the most part, people would say mentors don’t have a commercial relationship tied to them. You’re a bit of an exception in that respect. You are probably straying a bit into coaching, where there is more of an obligation for you to help make that work because somebody is paying you for the help you’re giving.

That goes to the US definition more than perhaps the UK. There is perhaps a difference between workplace mentoring and business mentoring. If you are an entrepreneur, you may find a mentor who will do it for free, but equally, you may well be paying someone. In the US, it’s more likely to be called coaching. For me, I prefer the distinction between the two that a mentor has the experience and expertise around the challenge you are facing and you’re tapping into that, but they will use coaching techniques to help you find the solution, and a coach doesn’t necessarily have any experience or expertise in the area, but they have the ability to help you find an answer.

The mentor will have the answer. A good mentor will help you find that answer before sharing their experience with you, but you are tapping into their experience and expertise. That’s what the relationship is about. A coach doesn’t need that. All they’re there to do is ask questions, reframe things for you, and help you navigate your way to the answer, even if they’ve never experienced that before themselves.

Network Building

With the time you’ve got left, let’s spend a few minutes on networking. Not everyone earns the reputation of being a master of networking as you have. Let’s start with why it is so important to build and nurture a network. What are some of the foundational principles when it comes to networking?

Quite simply, it’s so much easier to achieve the results you want quickly and effectively with the help of other people. People have been there before. The sum of the whole is greater than the individual elements. That’s why networks are so important. From a career perspective, I always share a wonderful piece of research called PIE. You may have come across it.

It is much easier to achieve your desired results as quickly and effectively with the help of other people. Share on X

Harvey Coleman wrote a book in the late 20th Century about career development and promotion. He looked at the different elements that went into promotion and identified three, Performance, Image, and Exposure. Most people feel that if they do a good job, they’ll get the promotion they deserve, but life isn’t fair.

Coleman illustrated this by saying, “As an element of promotion decisions, Performance only accounted for 10%, Image was 30%, and Exposure was 60%.” That’s not to suggest that you can do a bad job because it’s only 10%. If you think of a PIE, Performance is your base. If you haven’t got a base there, the whole PIE falls apart. If you’re doing a bad job, it’s going to influence Image and Exposure anyway.

If we put it into plain English, Performance is what you do. Image is how people perceive what you do and how they perceive the value of what you do. If people are looking for someone to fill a particular role, they’re looking for that person to bring something to the table. Is that how people perceive you? Are those the qualities they see in you? Exposure, which is 60%, is who knows? Who knows about what you do?

If you take a typical hierarchical organization, the people who know the quality of your performance are most likely your teammates and your direct line manager. Neither of whom is going to make the decision on your promotion. They may have some influence, particularly your team manager, because they’re going to be asked.

A conversation amongst those who decide the promotion, whether it’s informal conversations, a committee, or a panel, do those people know about you? Are they aware of the qualities you have? It’s your networks that get you there. It’s the relationships you build over a period of time over your career, how effectively you leverage those networks, and how effectively you educate people about your qualities and you manage that personal brand. That’s why it’s so important. There was a second part to your question.

It was about the principles of networking.

Let me start with my favorite quote, which is Elizabeth Asquith Bibesco who was a poet and author. Her father was a former British prime minister, Lord Asquith. Elizabeth Asquith Bibesco said, “Blessed are they who give without remembering and receive without forgetting.” That’s principle number one. No quid pro quotes. It’s not about, “I’ve scratched your back. Now, you owe me. Here’s mine.”

If you think about Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he talked about emotional bank accounts. He said, “Relationships are like bank accounts. You have to invest in them first before you can withdraw.” You see your whole network as the bank account, not individual people. I might give it to you, but I might receive back from someone else, and you give it to someone else in turn.

If you go into a bank and you put in £10 or $10 in your local branch, you can withdraw it from a branch to the other side of the world. It’s a different £10 or $10 note. It’s the same with your network. If you give to one person, you receive from another. You don’t keep individual scores. That frees up the relationships to be pure, more natural, and less Machiavellian, if you like.

Equally, you put a principal on the other side. You can’t keep paying money into the bank account and not withdraw. You have to be willing to turn to your network and ask for the support you need. You can’t assume your network is there to support you. You have to tell them what you need. In mentoring, you don’t assume your mentoring knows what help you need. You need to tell them and direct them. That’s one element of that professional relationship landscape.

If you’re asking for a referral, and let’s say it’s a referral for a new job, what most people say is, “I’m looking for work. Do you know anyone who can help me?” Anyone gets you no one. Guide people. Tell them what you’re looking for. Think about who they know. You could be like, “I want to work in this type of role or in this type of business,” or name a company you know they have contacts in. Guide them to the support you need. You don’t go into the bank and say, “Can I have some money, please?” You go into the bank and say, “I’d like to withdraw $2,332,” or whatever it might be. Be specific. It’s exactly the same when you ask for things from your network.

It sounds like your belief, given your comments about LinkedIn, would also really echo the idea of quality over quantity. You sound like a careful curator of your network.

I got into this business many years ago. My father, many years ago, had cofounded a business network. When we launched a new group, we would run this exercise where people would have one minute to go around the group and collect as many business cards as possible. The person who collected the most business cards would get a free business card holder.

It was a nice icebreaker. There was nothing wrong with it, but I put a stop to it once the penny dropped for me. I said, “We are sending out completely the wrong message here.” My business strapline for many years and I don’t know how many years it has been in place, is, “Connecting is not enough.” We have to move away from this click culture. We click to connect. We click to accept. Job done.

I have a model called the Seven Stages of Professional Relationship, where you understand the journey people go on in their relationship with you. They go from recognizing you to knowing you, liking you, trusting you, supporting you, advocating for you, and becoming a friend. Rather than go out and try and meet lots of new people, have a look at your existing network and say, “How many do I recognize, know, and like?” Can I get them to trust and support me? How many do I like, trust, and support? Can I get them to be advocates?”

Friends are nice to have. It’s not always relevant or appropriate. I’ve worked, for example, with a pharmaceutical rep who needed to network with doctors and pharmacists. They can’t become friends. It’s inappropriate, for example. That’s not where we’re aiming, but a supporter and advocate is what I call the sweet spot. Connecting is not enough. You’ve got to go on that journey of nurturing the relationship as well.

App Development

This is the last question. You’ve got your book to publicize, but what else is ahead for you?

We’ve developed an app. We’re in the minimum viable product stage. We are piloting it with a few people at the moment and testing it. It’s called The Relationship Matrix. It takes the Seven Stages of the Professional Relationship and takes my model of the four Is, which is how people can help you. These are Influencers, Introducers, Implementers, and sources of Information, insight, and ideas. It creates a stakeholder mapping process.

If you’ve got a particular objective, let’s say you want to be a director in three years or you want to get a new job in a different sector, or you are selling something and you want to cross-sell in an organization, or whatever it might be, you map out the different stakeholder groups, put people in within each group based on how well they know you, and then score them on the four Is, how they can help you.

You can look at it and say, “This group of people is in a position to help me and I can see how they can help me. They would want to help me. Are they giving me that help? If they’re not, what do I need to talk to them about?” You can be like, “This group of people is in a position to help me and I can see how they can help me, but maybe the relationship needs to be stronger. What can I do to build the relationship?”

Over time, we are going to build an action plan that will guide you through that process. At the moment, it’s at the basic level of that. You’re like, “There’s this small group of people over here who are in a position to help me. I can see how they can help me, but I don’t know them. Let me look at the rest of my map for my Introducers who might know them and connect them.” That app is being piloted. We are running it through a group at the moment to look at it from a career development perspective and see how they use it. Hopefully, that will start coming to market in the next few months.

That’s great. I would love to see it when it’s ready.

I would love you to. Hopefully, it will really catch on because the feedback we’re getting at the moment is positive.

Episode Wrap-Up

Thank you for doing this. I know we have a lot to cover. We scratched the surface of a few things. We can go deeper another time. I appreciate, though, that you made time and that we were introduced by Ruth.

I really enjoyed it. Thank you for having me on.

Thanks and have a good day.

You too. Thanks.

It was great catching up with Andy to talk about his new book, The Financial Times Guide to Mentoring, which he co-authored with Dr. Ruth Gotian, as well as his thoughts on networking, why you shouldn’t connect with everybody on LinkedIn, and a little bit on his career journey in the books he has written before this book.

He encouraged me to let everybody know that if you’d like to learn more about the book, you can visit the site, which has resources, a survey that you can take, and other things that will help you with mentoring-related topics. If you’d like help with career topics, otherwise visit You can become a member. Basic membership is free. You can also sign up for the newsletter on the website and follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Thanks.


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About Andy Lopata

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Andy Lopata | Mentoring ProgramAndy Lopata is an acclaimed professional relationships strategist, who has worked with a variety of global clients. He has written five books on networking and professional relationships, and now has a sixth book, ‘The Financial Times Guide to Mentoring’, coming out in May 2024. He writes a regular blog for Psychology Today and has often been quoted in the media, including The Sunday Times, The Financial Times and Inc. The FT called Andy ‘one of Europe’s leading business networking strategists’ and both and The Independent called him ‘a true master of networking’.

Andy holds the PSAE award – that’s the UK’s top award designed to recognise excellence in professional speaking. He is a two-time Board Member and former President of the Fellows Community of the Professional Speaking Association (PSA) UK and Ireland. He’s also a Fellow of the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI), a Master of the Institute of Sales Management and a member of the Meetings Industry Association and Association of Business Mentors.
He started working in networking in 1999, and spent eight years as Managing Director of a UK networking organisation that had over 2,000 member companies.

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