Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why mentor?

image from: http://sjaejones.com/blog/

"The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches 
but to reveal to him his own."
 - Benjamin Disraeli

As the year comes to a close and many of us find ourselves in a reflective mood I wanted to pause and examine a question that I (as author of this blog) have taken a little for granted: Why be a mentor?

To be a mentor one must have a genuine interest in people. I got into both leadership and mentoring roles because I love helping people develop. I have no greater professional satisfaction than watching people achieve things they themselves thought were beyond their reach. I myself have benefited tremendously from and have been unbelievably lucky to have had mentoring since very early on in my career. My first mentor, whom I hope to interview and post about in the coming months, had a profound impact on my career choices and subsequent successes. The inspiration for this blog came from my desire to encourage as many people as possible to start mentoring. I also wanted to create a space for questions and discussions about mentoring as an "art". I wanted to "pay it back" as much as "pay it forward" so to speak and took to writing and speaking on mentoring as a means to realize this goal.

Mentoring is a selfless act at first blush. It demands sacrifice in that the mentor makes both a costly time commitment as well as an emotional commitment to the progress of the mentee. So why would you as a person or your company as an organization initiate such a commitment?

There are many advantages to the mentor and to the mentor's organization! Here are a few top reasons why one should mentor (in no particular order):
  1. Companies improve retention and employee satisfaction - Taken from a key study on mentoring, "[Mentoring] programs can dramatically improve employee retention by helping individuals enjoy stable relationships with people in power. In addition, new employees are attracted to the organization by internal employees who are satisfied with the company. The authors also state that staff retention is not entirely a function of salary and depends heavily on employee morale. Mentoring programs, by filling individual needs to feel respected, boost morale and increase retention."
  2. "The best way to learn a subject is to teach it." - Whatever topics you choose to cover in your mentoring relationship one of two things will happen for you as the mentor: 1. As you give advice you'll have a chance to question and validate or improve upon your experience and current thinking on the topic; 2. In your efforts to answer some challenging questions you'll likely learn something new about the topic or about yourself during the process!
  3. Mentoring is a two-way street - In some of your better mentoring relationships you'll find your mentee going beyond asking for advice. They will hopefully start to bring fresh insights and new perspectives on a topic critical to your own success.
  4. Getting to the next level - If you are looking for advancement, especially if it's one that would transition you from an individual contributor to a management position, being an active mentor will certainly work in your favor. In fact it may even be the key differentiator between you and another promotion candidate.
  5. Networking  - The more people you know, no matter the level, the bigger your network. The bigger your network the more you're open to new opportunities and the greater the pool of resources you have to draw upon when you need to - now and in the future. That's a great thing. Period.
  6. You'll impact a life. You'll leave the world a better place.  - Have you ever wished that along the way you could have had someone more experienced give you some advice or guide you or open you up to possibilities sooner? You can be that person for someone else. That is an amazing gift to have the power to give.
If you are reading this posting as a (possible) mentor then you're already likely to know some of the above.

If you are reading this posting as a someone wanting to find a mentor perhaps you can use this article to help convince the person you've chosen as that mentor to join you on this wonderful journey.

"Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and 
a push in the right direction." - John Crosby

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