Mentoring: The desire to help others develop their skills and abilities.
For thousands of years, people have sought out the guidance and help of other people. However, it wasn’t until Homer’s epic, The Odyssey, that we started using the word mentor. In the Ancient Greek novel, while Odysseus was journeying away from home, his son Telemachus grew up with an old and trusted friend named Mentor, who we derived the modern title of mentor from. Today, mentor is used to describe someone who is a “positive, guiding influence in another (usually younger) person’s life.”
Having a positive, guiding influence is invaluable to your career. In fact, 75% of executives say mentoring has been critical to their career development, according to a survey by the American Society for Training and Development. As a mentee, you benefit from the experience of people who have already traveled down the path which you are beginning to travel; as a mentor, you have the capability to help people learn and grow by giving them your time and talent, which can be extremely rewarding. Additionally, when you invest in mentoring someone as a leader your company or organization will benefit from this relationship.
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”Winston Churchill
Providing mentorship and developing others not only develops yourself as a person but helps others to grow alongside you. This is closely related to the concept of support in our 21 Behavioral Scales on the BE Success Survey, and a scale we believe to be important in effective, mindful leadership. By providing mentorship to others, you encourage your people’s development and encourage a warm, safe environment for people to thrive in. Also, watching an employee learn and develop is gratifying, and boosting the person’s sense of importance and capability often increases that person’s loyalty to the company. When employees are challenged to learn and grow, they feel that management and mentors are invested in their success, which is extremely valuable to a company.
Here are a few key things to consider when creating a positive mentor-mentee relationship:
Establish Rapport & Trust
We believe (and there’s a lot of research to back it up) that this is one of the most essential components of an effective coaching session, and it also applies to a mentor-mentee relationship. Your mentee has to feel comfortable with you, admire you and trust you. So how do you achieve this? By being completely present and relaxed when you’re with them and emotionally available to truly hear what they need. Sounds simple, but it takes a lot of practice and dedicated time, but we can assure you that the benefits are two-fold.
Connect through Story
Humans have connected through stories for centuries, and this remains true today. Engaging, good stories do more than create a sense of connection- they also help to build rapport and trust. Also, stories can contain multiple layers and convey complex ideas in accessible ways. With one simple personal story, you can convey your underlying values, offer insight into your own experience and knowledge, and present yourself as more approachable. In Peter Guber’s book, Tell to Win, he argues that humans aren’t moved to action by data, overwhelming presentations, or dense spreadsheets. People are moved by emotion and the best way to emotionally connect with other people is with a story.
Consistency is King
Another key component of a healthy and effective mentor-mentee relationship is consistency. Simply put, give your time generously, be there when you say you’re going to be there, and check-in often.
One of our clients, SSA, a well-established company that operates visitor services at cultural attractions across the United States does a great job of developing their people. In this podcast we talk to their COO, Eric Loyall, about the importance of mentorship for personal growth and how his company invested in its own formal mentorship program to encourage understanding, connection and diversity.