Mentors play an important role in our lives. From the coaches who taught us to draw from the strength within to the parents, relatives neighbors, friends and teachers who believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves, mentors change lives.
So why aren’t business people talking more about mentoring? Part of the reason is that we often think of mentors as something we only need when we first embark on our careers. We think that college students need mentors, not seasoned professionals. Thus, we may inadvertently miss opportunities both to be mentored and to mentor others.
What makes an effective mentor? Here are a few key takeaways on what effective mentoring looks like and how you can give and receive mentorship to others.
Mutual respect: For mentoring to be effective, there must be a feeling of mutual respect between the mentor and the mentee. Mentors must respect the personal space and boundaries of the people they are mentoring, and mentees must respect the wisdom, experience, and boundaries of the mentor.
- Accountability: Mentors aren’t just cheerleaders urging you on with praise. Instead, they hold you accountable to your goals and your talents. They know what you are capable of before you know it and they encourage you to stretch to reach higher goals. They call you on the carpet when you fail to live up to your promises.
- Trust: The mentoring role involves a great deal of trust. Mentors often trust mentees to take on greater responsibilities. Business leaders may assign tasks and goals to subordinates they are mentoring that feel like they are impossible to achieve, and then guide and encourage mentees to reach those goals. There’s a great deal of trust involved in this process since failure may mean a negative reflection on the mentor. In return, the mentee must trust the mentor’s wisdom in assigning, delegating, and evaluating their work.
- Generosity: The mentoring role is one of generosity. Mentors must generously share their time, talents, and feedback with those they are mentoring. You can’t be stingy and be a mentor.
- Encouragement: Mentors need to be unfailingly positive, encouraging even in the face of adversity or stumbling blocks. While a Pollyanna mindset isn’t desirable, an optimistic one tinted with reality is the best direction for a mentor.
Other key takeaways include:
- Mirroring the good in the mentee and reflecting back what is right, true, smart and strong.
- Teaching new skills and guiding mentees to their strengths.
- Maturing, in that the mentor has walked the road before the mentee and knows that setbacks are temporary and can be overcome.
- Positivity, an enduring sense that things will work out for the best.
Finding a Mentor
Given the value of the mentoring relationship, and the fact that mentoring can be a lifelong process, how do you find a mentor as an adult? As a child, teenager or young adult in the business world, mentors seem to come out of nowhere. A favorite teacher, grandparent, neighbor, coach steps into the role easily and naturally, and before we know it, we are learning and growing.
As a professional in the nonprofit world, it can be challenging (but not impossible) to find a mentor. Senior-level executives may find mentors through formal business organizations, nonprofit organizations, or among peer groups.
Reach out to your junior members and provide opportunities for growth and professional development. Slowly build up trust by allowing them to lead projects that increasingly stretch their talents and comfort zones. Guide, teach, and lead, but do not dictate; allow the person’s talents to grow at their own pace.
Keep in mind the concepts of mirror and positivity. Mirroring back the positives and reflecting back the good work without ignoring the mistakes is also an important part of mentoring.
Mentoring can be a lifelong event, one that enriches and supports personal and professional growth. Your organization will benefit from a culture that embraces mentoring and the role of mentors in the organization.
Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.