Mentoring: Why everyone benefits from it/why everyone wins with it has been saved
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For the past 8 months, I have been engaged in a formal external mentorship program, which I am really enjoying. Prior to this relationship, my definition and view of mentoring was “a relationship between two parties where one needs support on different areas and the other offers guidance as needed”, period. What I did not understand at the time was that although simply put that is what mentorship means, it is much deeper than that. Mainly because it is not only about catering for someone’s learning or career guidance needs, but that it is a career enhancement program for both parties and it requires that the mentee as well as the mentor leave their comfort zones to ensure they achieve a successful mentoring relationship. The mentor is expected to offer his expertise, guidance, values, skills, perspectives, attitudes and proficiencies while the mentee is expected to share clear objectives he/she wants to achieve or areas of improvement to work on, and this requires coming out of your shell for both participants alike.
Benefits for all
Everyone needs a mentor or mentors for enablement on their path to a successful career. Regardless of their area of expertise, be it business, sports, fashion, entertainment, it is important to have someone there to offer support. Some of the most successful people throughout history and known today had mentors, and would probably not have achieved the same level of success had it not been for the presence of a trusted mentor in their lives. A case in point is that of Oprah Winfrey who speaks of Maya Angelou, one of her mentors for many years: “She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. Mentors are important and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship.” Other examples of successful mentor/mentee relationships include Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg, Christian Dior/Yves St Laurent, and Larry Summers/Sheryl Sandberg.
All parties win from participating and enabling mentoring, the mentor, the mentee, and the organization supporting a formal mentorship program. Mentors have an opportunity to invest themselves in someone who seeks what they can offer, while also getting the opportunity to grow and learn from this relationship themselves. Mentees have an opportunity to gain wisdom from someone who has traveled the path before them, and build a stronger network. The organization has the opportunity to foster a culture of sharing knowledge and perspectives, as well as creating opportunities for its people to continue growing irrespective of their level of seniority.
What you need to get it right
Some critical elements need to be in place for a mentoring program to be successful. For starters, implementing this type of program within an organization requires senior management buy in, awareness around the benefits and needs of the program, proper accountability as well as a clear process and guidelines in place to define the requirements from all parties involved. It also requires having mentors and mentees that want to participate willingly, mentors with the right expertise, and the openness and eagerness from both parties to learn. In my view the top three criteria for success are:
* Right awareness: people within the organization need to be aware of what a mentorship program is about and be clear on the benefits as well as the requirements from participants. Its hard work to participate in a mentorship program irrespective if you are a mentor or a mentee and although very rewarding you need to give it the right time, over and above all other work priorities.
*Accurate pairing: it is critical that the matching process and the tools used to pair mentors and mentees is best in class. The mentee should be clear on what he/she wants to work on prior to joining a mentorship program to ensure that the adequate mentor, who has the needed expertise and skills, is identified to cater to those needs.
*Positive chemistry: this is a tricky one and a criteria that you can’t measure or assess through a tool before the pairing. Yet it is extremely important that the mentor and mentee have the right connection, the right chemistry, for the relationship to be successful ultimately. When people relate to each other they truly build a bond and a relationship that they both enjoy hence making it easier to take the relationship forward successfully.
Being a mentor is no easy feat, but it can make a huge difference in the career evolution and development of a young person with potential to grow. As Richard Branson said, “If you ask any successful businessperson, they will always have had a great mentor at some point along the road. If you want success then it takes hard work, hard work, and more hard work. But it also takes a little help along the way.” Are you ready to give back and make a positive difference in somebody’s career?
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