Mentoring can change your life – and theirs. National Mentoring Month was created to raise awareness of mentoring and as a rallying point for recruiting more adults to step up and be present for young people.
Mentoring means helping less experienced people observe, experiment and evaluate different ways of doing work to find out which strategies work best. And the benefits are not limited to young people. People of all ages can gain from the guidance of a more experienced person, even someone younger than you. A mentor can help even experienced managers boost their job performance and advance their careers.
I’ve had the privilege of mentoring hundreds of people over the course of my career. With some, it consisted of a few meetings. With others, the relationship lasted over months or years, with an occasional check-in when questions arose. Those are some of the most rewarding experiences of my decades in business.
At the same time, I am grateful for two mentors whom I have occasionally mentioned: my University of Minnesota history professor Harold Deutsch and golf coach Les Bolstad. Both men taught me as much about life as their particular subjects. Over my business career I’ve had many great mentors.
Growing up, were there people in your life who encouraged you, showed you the ropes and helped you become the person you are today? Think about individuals who offered you encouragement, shared their experiences and knowledge, and sometimes just listened when you needed to talk.
Most successful people say they had mentors along the way who guided and encouraged them. For example, poet Maya Angeloucited a grade school teacher who sparked her love of poetry; music producer Quincy Jones points to the powerful influence of musician Ray Charles; and musician Sting credits a teacher whose energy inspired a lifelong passion for learning.
Finding a mentor, or being a mentor, whichever situation you find yourself in, establishing the right relationship is critical. You know how important mentoring can be to younger or inexperienced employees. But how do you know if you’re cut out to be a good mentor? Here are five key characteristics of an effective mentor:
When you are on the other side of the equation, how do you go about finding a good mentor? To find the right match, look for someone with skills similar to yours but who has progressed further up the professional ladder. They don’t even have to be in the same city. With e-mail, teleconferencing and the phone, they can be anywhere.
Don’t limit yourself to one mentor. You may want to have several mentors to help with different aspects of your life, a kind of mentoring “board of directors.” And remember, mentors change over a lifetime.
Manage your time together. Be mindful of the amount of time a mentor can commit to the relationship. Ask for referrals if you feel like you’re imposing. Let your mentors know that you are grateful for their guidance.
Mentoring presents a tremendous win-win opportunity that few business relationships offer. And who doesn’t want to be a winner?
Mackay’s Moral: Show that you care with the knowledge you share.