Leadership Lesson: If you are not giving back, mentor someone

Published in the Phoenix Business Journal on December 1, 2017

Gifts? What did your best mentors give to you? Hands on advice, expert teacher, trusted guidance, a sounding board, devoted support for your career? They were always available, authentic, and open. Thank them. Give back what you received. Mentor someone.

What your good mentors did not do: force their ideas on you, demand that you follow their inputs, fail to listen to you, scold you, ask you to do anything contrary to your values, or do favors for them. If they did, they were not a true mentor.

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” – Steven Spielberg, American film director, producer, screenwriter

Who might you mentor?

Frequently, we can mentor someone in our workplace. Even a person who reports to us. Others may be in different parts of the organization. Perhaps someone will ask you. Don’t announce it, but without forcing yourself just start acting like a mentor to someone who seems interested.

Another opportunity includes your peers. Others in the organization who do not have your experience or abilities. They may need more job instruction, moral support, direction, and other success factors that you can provide. 

Consider mentoring those who are facing career challenges or considering a change of jobs. Your guidance could help them avoid unnecessary risks. Or maximize an opportunity. You will feel fulfilled.

5 tips for effective mentoring

Approach each of your mentees differently – none of them are the same. Some important things to remember:

  1. Create a mentoring relationship – understand your own readiness and interest. Choose someone to mentor and get to know each other. Build trust, set some goals, and keep the interaction moving forward. 
  2. Ask more than you answer – don’t dive in and spit out all the answers to their questions. Do probe and push, don’t pontificate. Mentees learn more when they create ideas themselves. And model the answers.
  3. Be an active listener – engaged listeners are attentive, take notes, ask questions, and repeat back to made certain they have heard properly. Because mentors and mentees spend time listening to each other.
  4. Take a personal interest – responsible mentors are invested in the success of their mentees. These mentors are compassionate, knowledgeable, and are good teachers. Good mentors empower their mentees to develop their own strengths.
  5. Be positive - shout strongly with optimism and stay silent with criticism. If a mentee has an unrealistic idea, first consider why the idea might work, before you consider why it might not. 

A good example

Intel operates a program to match employees with mentors based on the mentees’ interest and skills. 25 years ago, Intel became the largest chip maker by revenues and has held that position continuously. 

Benefits

There are numerous benefits to being a good mentor (and leader): 

  • Retain great talent in the organization.
  • Get younger talent up to speed faster.
  • Expand your own network.
  • Learn from your mentees (even the younger ones). 
  • Increase your sense of purpose.

Mentors feel energized by interacting with their younger and newer associates. 

The bottom lines

Give back. Be a better leader by being a good mentor. Offer yourself to a willing candidate in your organization. Help them with their career and enjoy the many benefits. Remember your great mentors and what they did for you. Return the favor. Soon

Click here to read this article on the Phoenix Business Journal site.