Mentoring on a personal and professional level is something that has been done for years. But recently, there have been some changes as it relates to mentoring. The following answers to commonly asked questions are provided in the context of these recent changes.
How do you find a good mentor, and how do you know if you need one?
We all need mentors (regardless of our business stature or seasons of our careers) to grow personally and professionally. To find great mentors, sit and candidly assess who you want to become (not just what you want to accomplish) in five, ten and fifteen years; you may not know all of the answers or even what questions to ask, so seek individuals you admire and succinctly identify the remarkable characteristics, skills, behaviors they possess which you seek. Identify a handful of individuals at higher stature than you are today and develop a relationship with them. This is ideal if you can find someone with a vested interest in your success to give you an independent perspective and unique insights on how you are perceived and particular areas for improvement. Introspection is difficult for many, but those who can do it well and uncover candid gaps between whom they are today and who they want to become, go into a mentoring process with a very clear set of goals, strategies, objectives, and tactics (GSOT).
What’s involved in mentoring?
A baseline assessment of where a mentee is today (current state), where he / she is trying to go (future state), and thus a gap – which becomes the mentoring plan. You need a mentee thirsty for personal and professional growth and a mentor willing and able to invest the time, effort, and resources to raise the mentee’s bar. To do so, they have to see that the mentee is worthy of such an investment and will create a return on that invested relationship capital. Every successful mentee / mentor program also requires an incredible amount of sincere candor, tough love, and the willingness on the mentee’s part to hear and listen to sometime difficult perspectives. Strategic guidelines from HR are a useful tool, but the overall success comes from aligned expectations between the mentor & mentee.
How can you be a good mentor?
Start with a healthy self – really know and be able to articulate your strengths and weaknesses. Make certain the mentee is well matched with his / her desires to grow with the insights you can share. Hold them accountable to make progress along a growth continuum, push them to think and behave differently because only a change in behavior will create an impact in their careers. Last, but not least – be passionate about people and get authentic joy from seeing those you mentor grow and prosper in life. Mentoring is not an event – it’s a process.
Are there risks or drawbacks to agreeing to be a mentor (or to being a mentee)?
Yes – you can have a mentee or a mentor who is not committed to a process, is unresponsive, or isn’t engaged. Cut your losses and move on. This is a reciprocal relationship and must be initiated by the mentee. But the mentor also has the responsibility to make the mentee a priority with a gift of time, provide credible and proven advice, and focus on the output (results) vs. input (activities, i.e. meetings, reports, etc.) Many mentors fear the time commitment and an indifferent mentee.
Also, do people still call it mentoring?
Sure – although more creative models have emerged in recent years. Other mentoring structures include job shadowing, buddy-systems at work, and new-hire peers. Many organizations also assign a more senior person to someone who has recently joined a geography, a department, or a specific cross-functional role to “show you the ropes.”
While mentoring programs have evolved in recent years, their purpose has stayed the same. Sharing knowledge, insight and wisdom that one person has with another person benefits everyone who is involved in such a program.