I was inspired to write this blog by a mentee of mine who today told me “it must be so tiring for you to have these intense mentoring discussions”. She couldn’t be more wrong. Mentoring energizes me. The time I take to mentor 8-10 people on an ongoing basis, both inside and outside of Marketing & Communications, often feels like the most worthwhile part of my work days.
1. It challenges me. Mentees often pose complex interpersonal, performance, even work-life dilemmas, which require me to think creatively about the guidance I can provide and the questions I can ask in return. It’s not always easy to strike a balance between helping someone feel they can better address a problem, without necessarily dictating the answer (since I often don’t have the answer!)
2. It inspires me. Watching mentees grow as employees, as managers, as people, is a pretty awesome feeling. Knowing I’m contributing to their success, even in a small way, makes me proud of my choice to take time out of my already crazy life to spend with them.
3. It lets me practice. Each situation a mentee brings to me has elements of things I face in my own job, in my own position as manager, peer and employee. In a way, mentoring provides a means for me to talk through situations that might very well arise somewhere in my own team in a risk-free setting.
4. It makes me feel good. I’m paying it forward. I’m helping people through their challenges, one step at a time. For any of you wanting a way to give back directly in a work context, this is it.
As I mentor, I learn, just as much as I give. I’m always amazed by the self-reflection mentoring demands of me and by the new ways of thinking my mentees offer. That’s the beautiful thing about mentoring.
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in an SAP Radio program on the power of leaders teaching leaders (shout out to Bonnie D. Graham and her well-executed thought leadership program on HR Trends). You can listen to the show on-demand here.
Mentoring is one relatively simple way leaders can teach others – whether those others are junior to them, senior to them, or work with them. In fact, I maintain that mentoring is an essential skill for leaders. Leaders need to impart their learnings and also realize that their own learning can come from unexpected quarters. Mentoring provides an effective way to both teach and learn, no matter what level in the organization someone is. It’s a 2-way street, and everyone has something to give, even if they don’t think they do.
So the next time anyone asks you if mentoring is worth it….the answer is a resounding YES. And if you’re not already mentoring, get out there and do it!
What do you think? Do you mentor? Are you a mentee? Is it worth it?