What is a mentor?
A mentor is someone who helps a mentee grow, develop, make decisions, and receive guidance for their careers or future. For the mentor, it serves as a way to give back and is an important development and learning experience. In that way, they both benefit from the relationship.
Being a mentor serves as a way to give back and is an important development and learning experience. Teaching others is the best way to learn yourself. In the same way, mentors become more competent as leaders and communicators as they guide and help rising talent.
Do you see that there’s a lot for you to learn through this relationship?
Is it important to have a mentor?
We all need – and have hopefully had – people in our lives that we go to for guidance and support. Having mentors gives us access to the experience that we lack and tactical knowledge we can draw on for guidance. We can all remember mentors that gave us the advice or a helping hand that led us to where we are now.
As a leader, you may be considering sharing what you’ve learned throughout your career with the next generation. This article will convince you that you absolutely should because it’s a win-win situation: you, your mentee, and your organisations stand to benefit from the experience.
Why leaders should be mentors
In short, this is why leaders should be mentors:
- Validates leadership skills
- Heightens Emotional intelligence
- Hold leaders accountable
- Drive self-awareness
- Expands the mentor’s professional network
Now let’s go into more detail about each of the reasons:
Validates leadership skills
Being placed in the context of a role model can help mentors grow as leaders and gain confidence in their abilities. The senior employee’s job of guiding someone’s career and aspirations includes the ability to instruct, motivate, and provide honest feedback, even in uncomfortable conversations.
Heightens Emotional intelligence
Business leaders often experience information overload. There are always issues, problems or concerns that can overwhelm leaders. This can stifle emotional intelligence within leaders and make them poor communicators and listeners.
However, in a mentoring situation listening is key. Having a formal mentoring relationship – where it’s expected that mentors listen and provide sound recommendations for their mentee – is a training ground for developing emotional intelligence skills like listening and clear communication and inspiring others.
Holds leaders accountable
Another attribute of a strong leader is taking responsibility and accountability. It entails not only owning up to mistakes and taking responsibility for one’s own actions, but also inspiring the team to achieve results and avoid a negative and less desirable consequence. A mentoring relationship relies on accountability.
The mentee has to take control of their own career and push themselves through obstacles to get what they want out of the relationship. Likewise, a mentor has to live up to the same standards that they set for mentees through their advice.
Teaching someone something is sometimes the best way to teach yourself or reveal that you didn’t know somethings as well as you thought you did. A good example of this is the Feynman Learning Technique, where you simplify something to the point that a child could understand it. Doing so removes all that jargon that may make it seem like you know something when you actually don’t.
Being a mentor is similar. More often than not a mentee is eager to learn and will readily apply any advice they receive. If the advice and guidance you provide is sound then it should be validated by the outcomes of the mentee. If not, it may reveal areas where both you and our mentee can improve.
Expands the mentor’s professional network
For the mentee, being able to connect with leadership quickly expands their professional network. When they bring goals or challenges to their mentor it’s likely they’ll point them in the direction of someone they know who can help them.
It’s obvious that it’s good for the mentee, it’s also crucial for the mentor to expand their network into the next generation of talent. By doing so they can keep their eye out for hidden talent and high potential employees. In an economy that’s getting more competitive for top talent, it’s arguably necessary for leaders to connect with younger generations in order to find talent.
Mentoring is a learning experience both for the mentee and the mentor. It’s an opportunity for a leader to give back to their organisation and keep tabs on rising talent. It’s arguable that a senior executive isn’t a leader because of their title alone, but because of their actions.
And there’s no better way to prove leadership skills than to mentor junior employees. Use your hard earned skills and experience that’s brought you where you are today and use it to help those earlier on in their career.
There are tangible benefits like learning how to become a better communicator and listener, but there are intangible benefits as well that are just as important. Getting the fulfilment from seeing someone grow and develop their career with your help is incredibly fulfilling.
For these reasons, leaders – if they do consider themselves leaders – should take it upon themselves to mentor more junior employees and future leaders. To bring the benefits of mentoring to a whole organisation, consider starting a mentoring program where all employees can gain access to the career transforming experience of a mentoring relationship.