Benefits of mentoring

Benefits of mentoring


Benefits of mentoring

I’ve had some conversations with folks who are interested in mentoring but hesitate to take the first step as the task seems daunting or they aren’t able to see the benefits to it for their time. These are difficult times for businesses and individuals as the future holds a lot of uncertainty around the job market. Having someone to guide you through the journey can be an invaluable asset to an early professional, however, there are plenty of benefits to the mentor as well.

I am a firm believer that as a mentor, you get more out of the relationship that you put in.

Think about the last time you were at a crossroad and you turned to a friend, a parent, or a partner for advise. Due to that conversation, or those words of affirmation, or even the space for caution, that decision turned out to be one of the best decisions you’ve made. As we dig deeper into the decisions that cause the rise and fall of some of the most influential people in the world, we see how a steady voice of reason helped shape the course of their careers and lives. Oprah had Maya Angelou guiding her through some of the most important years of her life; Gandhi’s political guru was Gopal Krishna Gokhale & he took inspiration from Leo Tolstoy’s works. Paul Rand, the creator of iconic brands such as, ABC, AIGA, Cummins, Ford, IBM, and UPS, to name a few, leaned deeply on the works of Gustav Jensen and Cassandre. And of course where would Harry Potter have been without Dumbledore? In all these instances mentorship took on many different forms and I’d like to touch on one relationship in particular, that of Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu.

Mandela is acclaimed as the leader of the ANC, a freedom fighter, conquerer of apartheid, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and the first president of South Africa. But there is a deeper story that laid the foundation for all of this. Madela’s mentor Walter Sisulu saw something in him and took him on as his protégé, by recruiting him into the ANC, and then continuing to shape and guide his views on life. This mentorship carried on when they radicalized the ANC and then spent 25 years together in jail on Robben Island. It was here that Mandela started to take on a more senior role and Sisulu, recognizing his leadership strength, encouraged him in doing so. He still advised and challenged Mandela and shaped his thoughts and ideals, but all the while preparing Mandela to take over for him as the leader of the movement. There is much to learn through their friendship. While it might seem like Mandela reaped all the benefits of that relationship, Sisulu revealed in interviews that he looked up to Mandela as well. He relied on his tough demeanor, cool head under pressure, as well as his qualities of leadership, since Mandela was being groomed to be a leader of the Xhosa. Sisulu also leaned on Mandela’s youth and methods to inspire and relate to the pressures and hardships facing the younger African.

My life has brought on its fair share of experiences and while not all of them were pleasant, they were definitely great teachers. It wasn’t until recently that I actively engaged individuals as mentors or mentees and while there are many thoughts around the need or value of a mentor, I believe that having people to look up to, helped encourage me and guide me through some of my harder decision. It has shaped my life and allowed me the opportunities that have brought me to where I am today. Mentorship can take on many forms; some can be a relationship built over time, others can be one-time conversation, and other yet might be between folks who have never met. I’ve had plenty of individuals whose works and teachings have shaped me and my career, all while never having met them in person. This just goes to show, no matter your situation, you will get only what you put into your own career growth. It’s not about getting the perfect mentor, it’s about being a hard working mentee.

I am a firm believer that as a mentor, you get more out of the relationship that you put in. While at times it might seem like an effort to take on another meeting, or “lose” an hour in your week to take on someone else’s problem, the benefits overshadow any temporary sacrifices you might make. I’d like to share a few of those benefits with you today.

  • Intrinsic – The joy of having an impact in someone else’s life is immense. While, this might seem daunting, by merely being an example through your own success, you can show someone else the possibilities that await them should they make the most of the opportunities that life throws at them.
  • Selflessness – This is a state that many of us aspire to, however with work issues, home stress, not to mention our own fears, anxieties, goals and plans can keep us occupied and feel like a weight has been put on us that we can’t bear. Taking the focus off ourselves and spending time helping someone else with their problems, shifts the focus from us and allows us to transcend our egotism, as well as recharge for another bout with our problems.
  • Growth – The best way to learn a subject is to teach it. Iron sharpens iron and as you share your knowledge with someone else and look to answer questions that they have you will find your self growing in your subject matter, either through reiterating the principles that you already know, or find reasons to learn the odd edge cases that you might have not been aware of.
  • Self Reflection – A lot of times, I get folks telling me that their mentee impacted their lives in unimaginable ways. Whether through deliberate means or innocent ones their mentees shined a light on areas of themselves that they needed to work on and allowed them to course correct.
Now that I’ve convinced each of you to give off your time and experience lets go over some ways to prepare yourself as a mentor. While this may or may not be your first foray into mentoring, I can attest that, this is going to be one of the most rewarding experiences that you will have; if well managed.
  • Your mentee might have a few people that they lean on for advice and you need to understand your place in their constellation of mentors. Identify what areas they lean on you for and be specific in your direction. Begin by getting a better understanding of their interests, passions and what brought them to this point. Your goal is to get as much information about them to give valuable feedback. This is not the time to share your entire life story.
  • Be available. There is lot you have going on and it is important to maintain boundaries and expectations early on. However, take stock of your time and make sure you do not overburden yourself with taking on more mentees than you can manage well. For the mentees that you do have, set schedules and be there. There is nothing more disheartening for a mentee to come hopeful and prepared for a conversation to then be stood up.
  • Think about the end goal. Every journey has a beginning and an end. It is important to come back to the reason for your mentorship sessions and identify what your mentees next steps should be. Whether that is continuing on with you or moving on to another mentor that can better address another area of growth.

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