I hope that question brings to mind a list of people in your life. If not, don’t sweat it. You’re probably already mentoring someone and just don’t think of it that way. You should! Being a mentor is one of the best ways you can “give something back” by sharing your insight, experience and perspective with someone who is facing challenges similar to those you have faced. It’s something I find to be truly rewarding in life.
In the past I’ve seen people make mentoring out to be far more formal than it needs to be. At its best, mentoring is simply guiding and advising another to help them be successful. Mentoring doesn’t need to occur solely in a supervisor-employee relationship; in fact, my personal experience is that it is often most effective if the mentor is outside of the direct supervisory chain of the individual being mentored. No matter what your business or skill set is, there’s someone out there who can benefit from your experience.
There are a number of ways you can mentor others. Relating a similar problem you faced, offering an alternate perspective, sharing best practices or “pro-tips” are all ways you can share your experience with someone else. Mentoring also provides an opportunity to pass down and encourage organizational culture and values in an informal way. It could even give you a chance to start grooming your replacement for the day when an exciting, new opportunity comes along. Mentoring isn’t one-sided either. When you mentor someone, you get a valuable opportunity to get another perspective on something you may be struggling with as well.
So now you’re fired up about finding someone to mentor! But who? I recommend you actively seek people to mentor who you wouldn’t normally interact with on a daily basis. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to guide the people you work with everyday. There is probably someone out there who can really benefit from your experience and knowledge that you haven’t even met!
As you get started, think about who your mentors have been. There have been people who believed in you and guided you along your journey. What valuable lessons did you learn from them and what style did they use to present it to you?
Chances are you are already mentoring someone and don’t even know it. Make a conscious decision to develop that relationship and share your experience and insight with that person. Don’t limit yourself to mentoring just one person, especially if you are in a formal supervisory role. It’s important that as you mentor you provide the same opportunities for everyone to avoid the appearance of favoritism.
When you see an opportunity to mentor, jump right in and do it. Most likely it will be appreciated. If not, you made an honest attempt to try to help someone and there will be other opportunities.
Don’t forget to maintain your own mentors as well! Your own development as a leader is still important while you help others along their path.
Get out there and mentor someone today!