The human capital development strategy of mentorship is getting a lot of attention these days. From books to boardrooms, everyone is trying to crack the code and tap its potential and power.
Mentors have the ability to accelerate the growth of others through their generous sharing of their perspectives, time, insights, coaching and experience. Is this a selfless act of service? Not even remotely. Savvy mentors stand to gain as much from the experience as do the proteges they guide and frequently a lot more.
Are you on the fence about becoming a mentor? Consider these six ways you can personally benefit from the process. Through mentorship, you have the opportunity to:
- Do the work you moved into leadership to do. Most people take on a leadership role because they want to make a difference. Then they get sucked into the administrivia and the day-to-day grind. Mentoring puts them back in touch with that original impetus and motivation. Through mentorship, you get to do the work — and make the difference — you originally aspired to when you moved into leadership.
- Hone one of the most essential leadership skills: coaching. Mentoring others is an ideal sandbox in which to experiment and enhance the ability to have growth conversations, ask insightful and intentional questions, practice curious listening and bring out the best in others. Through mentorship, you have a chance to develop skills that will make you more effective elsewhere.
- Learn. You can’t help others grow and develop without growing and developing yourself. A wise mentor benefits from the different perspective and fresh eyes a protege can provide. And since the protege is frequently younger, there’s the potential to glean information about the latest in your field, new technologies and updated approaches. Through mentorship, you can elevate your ability to perform and contribute.
- Enhance your reputation in the organization. Since good mentors are in short supply in most organizations, they quickly become known and recognized. They are the rock stars who are frequently sought-after resources. Through mentorship, you can enhance your own stature within the organization and grow your influence.
- Improve your own work and work processes. Engaging with proteges, answering their questions, sharing experiences, exploring best practices, offering advice: All of this requires thought on the part of the mentor. Given the normal speed of business, many leaders don’t allow themselves the luxury of this kind of reflection. Through mentorship, you can become considerably more insightful about and skillful at your own work.
- Build a robust professional network. I recently met a senior executive who is so masterful at developing others that many of those he mentors are recruited away by competitors. This doesn’t bother him; it works to his benefit. He has begun to partner with competitors through his former protege relationships, winning business together that neither firm could have won alone. Through mentorship, you have the potential to develop lasting relationships that can deliver unimagined results.
Mentors can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve helped others to learn, grow and advance. But the gifts of mentorship flow in both directions. The mentor can find him or herself enriched as much as, or perhaps more than, the protege, proving yet again that giving can be just as rewarding as receiving.
What about you? What benefits have you gained by being a mentor? What gifts have you received from mentors in your life?
Julie Winkle Giulioni is the author of “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want,” with Bev Kaye. Giulioni has spent the past 25 years improving performance through learning. She consults with organizations to develop and deploy innovative instructional designs and training worldwide. You can learn more about her consulting, speaking and blog at JulieWinkleGiulioni.com.