Power of a MentorNov 28, 2023
The best thing a boss ever did for me was to provide a mentor as soon as I hit the ground in my new role. I was a little resistant at first, ‘I don’t need no stinking babysitter.’ It was a pain in the rump to have to go to those Friday meetings. What was I going to talk about? I did not see the value in having a mentor, and I could not have been more wrong. It was an invaluable lesson in support, guidance, strategy and psychological safety to have someone who had my back unconditionally. There is no doubt that my mentor helped move me towards my greatness.
Mentorship is the key to building a high performing organization and fostering excellence in your people.
A study by Sun Microsystems (2009) looked at over 7,000 mentoring pairs for more than a decade and found that employees who engaged in mentorship were five times more likely to be promoted and receive pay increases compared to their non-mentored counterparts. The guidance and insights bestowed by mentors pave a distinct pathway toward career advancement.
Mentorship isn't just an optional add-on but a game-changer in your journey.
Unveiling the Benefits of Having a Mentor
- Accelerated Learning Curve: A mentor serves as a human library, offering insights and shortcuts based on their experiences. This accelerates your learning curve, helping you avoid pitfalls and navigate challenges with greater ease.
- Personalized Guidance and Support: Picture having a trusted advisor who understands your strengths, weaknesses and aspirations. A mentor tailors their guidance to your unique needs, offering invaluable support through tough decisions and uncertainties.
- Boosted Self-Confidence and Awareness: With a mentor by your side, your confidence blooms. You gain a clearer understanding of your capabilities and limitations, fostering a sense of self-confidence crucial for leadership roles.
- Expanded Networks and Opportunities: Mentors open doors. They introduce you to their networks, paving the way for new opportunities, collaborations and exposure to diverse perspectives.
Here are a few practical steps on how to find a mentor:
If you are able, look for someone who is in your industry and has the benefit of observing you in action. If not, look beyond your own company or city. Networking in professional associations, industry seminars and online platforms are other ways to find and connect with potential mentors. Seek seasoned individuals who embody the expertise you aspire to. In my experience, professionals towards the end of their career and recent retirees tend to me more generous and find mentoring mutually rewarding. Don’t be discouraged if not everyone you ask can commit. It’s far better to keep asking until you find someone with the time and interest to ensure a level of continuity that engenders trust and fosters growth.
Asking for Mentorship
Before you approach a potential mentor, do your own homework. Brainstorm or research topics or burning questions you believe are pivotal to your growth. Take a personality inventory and provide the results along with your resume. I recommend requesting a monthly 20-minute (not 30!!!) coffee or virtual meeting with a pre-determined topic over the course of one year. Ask your mentor if they would like to choose some of the topics or assign any readings. The first monthly meeting should be an introduction and the last a debriefing. A gold standard would be to provide a link to the re-occurring meeting which includes an alert one or two days before with a subject or attachment with 2 or 3 questions to guide the conversation.
Your Responsibilities as a Mentee
Once you’ve secured a mentor, it’s your job to come to each meeting prepared to listen. Mentoring sessions are not for impressing your mentor. They are for curiosity and vulnerability. Bring your fears, your mistakes and your secret wishes, but only one or two to each session. Respect the time of your mentor by wrapping up on time, with thanks. Respect the wisdom of your mentor by truly endeavoring to try your mentor’s suggestions between sessions. After the first sessions, you’ll need to leave a few minutes at the opening of the next sessions to report back on your progress.
In the realm of leadership and professional development, finding a mentor isn't just a checkbox; it's a strategic move toward realizing your full potential. I’ve been fortunate to have had so many impactful mentors throughout my own journey to success, people who were generous with their own stories, strategies and encouragement. I’ve also had the privilege to mentor many up-and-coming leaders and hope my guidance has sped their ascent.
Until next time, keep embracing growth, fostering connections and striving for excellence. Your mentorship journey awaits. Remember, nobody does anything great alone.