Mentoring is the act of helping someone learn. Mentoring is a specific type of relationship that we have with people who are interested in our development and yet do not personally stand to gain anything themselves other than the satisfaction of helping someone on her/his path to success. Think of mentors as facilitators and catalysts in our process of discovery and insight.
And it’s not just one way learning. The best mentoring happens where both mentors and mentees set learning goals and focus on creating a trusting open relationship for both to ask for input and to give and receive feedback .
Mentoring is one type of relationship in our overall developmental network – the group of people we turn to and rely on for input, advice and ideas to help us along the way.
Mentoring in Brief
- A two-way, supportive learning relationship – the act of helping each other learn
- Safe place to bounce ideas and get objective advice from a trusted guide
- Personal support
- Leadership development
- Focus on maximizing potential
- Help navigating through a complex situation, goal or organization
- Ideas for how to get things done
- No personal agendas in the relationship – mentee or mentor
- Focus on the means not the end.
Benefits of Mentoring
These benefits I hear repeatedly from participants in programs. I’ve noticed over the years that both mentees and mentors list many of the same benefits. There’s as much to gain from being a mentor as a mentee.
- Trusted ally and confidant
- Sounding board to test ideas
- Accelerated learning
- Assistance with problem solving
- A safe place to receive objective feedback
- Someone to advocate for you
- Increased confidence
- Expand network
- Feelings of belonging – someone to relate to your experience
- More diverse perspective – improved creativity and innovation
- Bigger picture view – expanded knowledge
- More success in your current role/task – better results faster
- Improve skills of managing a diverse environment
Mentors also cite the opportunity to give back by sharing what they’ve learned as a major motivator for wanting to be a mentor.
Informal vs. Formal Mentoring Relationships
Most often the mentors in our lives show up through the connections we make in our personal and professional lives. We start a conversation, feel comfortable asking questions and an informal mentoring relationship develops.
We don’t always have access to the people that we’d like to lean on for advice and wisdom and this is where formal mentoring programs play an important role. Signing up for a custom program to be connected to someone who can help us in our business, career, volunteer work and even leisure activities such as sports enables us to meet a wider range of people that might be outside our current network of contacts, colleagues and friends.
It’s About Learning
Mentoring exists in many configurations – peer-to-peer, groups, co-mentoring – as well as the traditional one-to-one relationship with a more seasoned mentor with a less experienced mentee. The common denominator is they are all focused on learning.
Think of the mentors you’ve had along the way in your life and career. What did you learn? What made the relationship work?