Throughout my career, I’ve had many fantastic mentors. My mentors helped me gain perspective, broaden my thinking and develop confidence. When designing leadership development programs, I often build a mentoring component into the mix because I’ve personally experienced how valuable the process is.
Beyond Experience: The Mindset Essential for Effective Mentorship
Companies often have formal mentoring programs and it’s assumed that people of a certain experience level will naturally gravitate towards being a mentor. But do they? Not always. One of the barriers to effective mentoring programs is a good match between the mentor and protégé. Simply having “X” number of years experience doesn’t equip someone to be an effective mentor. There’s a certain mindset required. How do you know when you’re ready to be a mentor? Let me share a story with you to help illustrate this mindset.
When the Protoge Becomes the Mentor
There’s a Senior Vice President (“Barb”) who’s well-known in her company for being the consummate mentor. Barb believes so strongly in mentoring that she actively seeks out and arranges mentors for all of her direct reports. So when I was tapped to develop a leadership program for mid-level leaders, Barb was the natural choice to do a presentation on the topic of mentoring. Her session was a huge hit. During her presentation, Barb talked about how for the first 15 years of her career, she actively sought out mentors and was rewarded with a varied and rich assortment of business relationships because of it. As she rose through the corporate ranks, she noticed that there were less available mentors.
One day, Barb had an epiphany—she realized that it was her time to be the mentor. The student had become the teacher! It wasn’t that she didn’t need any more mentoring; rather, it was that the balance of needs had shifted and it was now her time to give back.
Epiphany Moments: Recognizing Your Call to Mentorship
Barb’s experience points to a key milestone in a person’s growth: that moment when it becomes apparent that there resides within you enough wisdom to be helpful to others. There’s another factor as well: your energy level and desire to mentor others. In my observation, that’s the “sweet spot” of mentoring— where your wisdom and energy intersect.
Where are you in your life that you can give back? Surely you have experience, expertise and wisdom in some area that someone will benefit from. And where’s your energy around sharing this wisdom? Is it with youth? With up-and-coming co-workers? With soon-to-be retired professionals entering their “second life”?
Line up your energy and your wisdom and see what great mentoring experiences result.