I think an often overlooked part of leadership for many people on every level, is mentorship. In my career, I’ve had no mentors, indirect mentors, and only one real mentor. Yet from every boss that I have ever had, I have learned something from them, sometimes positively, other times not so much. Yet, I do wish that it was something that more leaders actively did. I have tried to mentor many of the people working on my teams, there are some I still reach out to on an infrequent basis, to see how they are doing or if there was any advice that I could help them with, sometimes it’s work and sometimes it’s not. I wanted to share some of the reasons, I think about finding a mentor or mentoring someone.
Find Someone, not like you
This is one, that originally I didn’t like, it didn’t seem to fit me very well, as my first few mentors were exactly like me. Yet, some of the skills and thought processes I use regularly came from those people whose personalities and management styles weren’t like mine. We all have some blind spots in our jobs, or if you don’t like blind spots, more accurately tunnel vision. “We’ve done it this way forever”, finding a mentor who is different from you, can help you start to see the thought processes, you might not have ever tried, since you always did it this way. While it can be a little uncomfortable at first, there’s a lesson to be learned from new ways and new perspectives.
Mentors support growth
Mentorship can help cultivate growth in your own organization, by helping raise someone to a new level. My personal take is it’s always better to hire someone from within, they know some if not all of the ins and out of a particular company. Also, why would you not want to help someone with personal and professional development (if they are ready for it) and help them grow and see them grow? Plus this helps workplace satisfaction if they feel that you are invested in them.
One of my favorite parts of mentoring people is the encouragement part…we all need this every so often. Sometimes we can get down on ourselves and only see the errors we make (I’ve been there), and a mentor can encourage us to get back up and try again when we fail…and help push success. It’s easy to get stuck down in the weeds of work, and being the person who helps them see the bigger picture can reinvigorate a talented person.
Mentors serve as a source of knowledge
Now, this is an obvious one. I’ve learned so much from my mentors about how to approach work, how to interact with fellow employees, and set my moral compass. I am, on a level, every lesson learned from all my previous mentors. All they have taught me makes me the kind of leader that I am today. Now, this isn’t all good, I like to think I’ve passed on my failure lessons to the people I mentored. My hope is that they learn from all aspects, where I have succeeded and where I have failed, so they get a full view and learn that failure isn’t the end…you need to get back up and try again.
Someone to listen
Sometimes we just need someone to bounce some ideas off of, and there is where a mentor helps. They can listen, and give you objective advice or opinions with their relevant experience. This isn’t an all-or-nothing thing, but having someone to listen and provide opposing viewpoints lets you work through thoughts, and as mentioned before can help you see something you might have missed.
Mentors are Trusted Allies
I honestly debated this one, but I think it needs to be said. Your mentor needs to be someone you trust, and if you are someone’s mentor you need to make sure they can trust you. It’s one of the most important things because you can’t be honest if you think they’ll say something to someone else. This is a constant trust exercise and needs to be there on both sides of the mentor relationship.
If there is anything I forgot to mention that you think is important, let me know below.