In a recent post I focused on giving back in our communities. Today we’ll focus on giving back to other businesses. We’ll start with the topic of mentoring.
I arranged a meeting with a friend of mine and Anthony March, the Vice President of Eve Ambulette here in Brooklyn. My friend wanted some advice on starting a service providing transportation for patients to hospitals and clinics in the area. Over the course of the next 30 minutes, Anthony provided insights that my friend may not have learned elsewhere, or at least not have discovered easily. Anthony also gave my friend ideas that sparked different interests, helping him settle on a new potential venture. Those few minutes made a world of difference, and epitomize what mentorship is all about.
What is Mentoring?
There are many different views of what mentoring involves. Some may look at the above example and regard it as simply giving advice (and indeed, that did happen), since they view mentoring as an ongoing process. For the sake of this discussion, let’s use the definition offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association:
Mentoring is a developmental partnership through which one person shares knowledge, skills, information, and perspective to foster the personal and professional growth of someone else.
The article which offered the definition above went on to describe both informal and structured mentoring models, and states they happen in one-on-one and group settings. Thus, Anthony’s offering of advice to my friend falls within the informal, one-on-one mentoring model.
The fact is we all need mentoring at some point. In many cases, we need (and hopefully receive) ongoing mentoring. Sometimes it comes from a particular individual who is our go-to source for advice and training. More often, you’ll probably have many mentors throughout your lives. Some may help you throughout your journey; others will appear for a particular period in time, and then move on. Yet all are necessary, and their guidance is invaluable. As you achieve insight, gain experience, and have success, this puts you in a position to help others just like someone helped you . This raises the question…
What Does it Take to Become a Mentor?
F. John Reh wrote a series of articles on mentorship for About.com, examining what a mentor is and does, ways to find a mentor, and on becoming a mentor. The last mentioned article indicates the following two essential qualities all business mentors need:
- Having a level of interest, commitment, and confidence in your own abilities as would one who mentors a student (more on this in a moment), and
- A sincere interest in someone else’s growth.
The first point raises another question: What does it take to mentor a student? The article by Mr. Reh references guidelines offered by Oregon State University (OSU) to those mentoring undergraduate researchers. Some of the points specifically relate to helping researchers. Still, there are points that benefit business mentors and leaders in general. Among them are:
- Provide the one you’re mentoring with background information relating to his or her particular area of interest.
- Set up regularly scheduled meetings, and take time during these meetings to find out how your mentee fares outside of their main area of interest.
- Set clear expectations on what you expect from your mentee, including (if applicable) deadlines, the best way(s) to communicate with you, and goals.
- Help your mentee accept increasing responsibility and set more difficult goals after they’ve demonstrated proficiency in meeting previous requirements.
- Take time to discuss ethical issues that may arise and how to adapt to or overcome them.
- Let your mentee know there will be ups and downs on their journey, and that success involves just as many tedious tasks as exciting accomplishments.
- Take time to discuss other interests and personal matters, thus helping the mentee see that success is about balance in all areas of life.
The preceding indicates that mentoring at OSU involves much more than simply giving advice in the chosen endeavor of the mentee. Mentors must help them in all areas of life. This approach is likely why many regard offering advice as only a component of mentorship rather than the whole package. Still, at its root, mentoring helps a person with what they need most in order to grow past a challenge or break out of their present comfort zone in order to achieve new and greater things. If simple advice accomplishes that for one person, then that person received mentoring (at least in my opinion). Others may require more, and that’s also mentoring.
For those hoping to give back by mentoring, ask yourselves if you’re ready to rise to the challenge. Are you willing to give a person what they need in order to advance to the next level? Particularly if you are a self-starter and needed little more than advice on occasion to chart your course, can you accommodate someone who needs more direction? Are you prepared to make yourself available in the ways described above? If so, then likely you’re ready to accept the mantle of mentorship. What about those who are not prepared for the responsibility at present? If mentoring is something you truly want to do, then identify those areas that need improvement and start working on them. Additionally, you might find you can mentor individuals who need help in only the ways you can manage at present.
The Rewards of Mentoring
Whatever the case, the rewards of mentoring others are as varied as the people who accept the challenge. Jane K. Stimmler says of mentoring that it helps women leaders reach the critical mass needed to effect permanent positive change in organizational culture. Regarding the benefits mentors received by helping students from underserved, low-income communities in Philadelphia, a report on the Wharton University website said of one fellow in the program, “Devising learning opportunities for others is as educational for the mentor as it is for the mentee, as Jennie Oldham learned when she challenged students to brainstorm partnerships in the very areas in which she works.” Yes, the mentor often ends up learning alongside the mentee, making the arrangement mutually beneficial. Finally, let’s not underestimate the good feeling that comes from knowing you’ve done the right thing, and in the process helped someone else. So take up the mantle of mentorship. You’ll be happy you did!
Have you mentored others in your career? What were the results? How did you feel about the experience? Would you do it again? If so, what things would you keep the same and what things would you change? Share your experiences and thoughts in the Comments below.
- How to be a Great Mentor (execu-search.com)
- Want A More Satisfying Career? Become A Mentor (forbes.com)
- 3 Key Components to an Effective Mentor Relationship (lorensworld.com)
- Mentoring Matters (majinjxo.wordpress.com)
- Benefits of mentoring (reed.co.uk)
- How to be an effective mentor (sanderssays.typepad.com)
- What Makes A Good Mentor? (greaterteens.wordpress.com)
- Leadership skills: Mentoring tips (informaaustralia.wordpress.com)