If the term “mentoring” calls to mind programs for children and teens, then it’s time to rethink the term. Mentoring is an important activity for all, including executives and managers.
Although mentoring as a concept has been around a long time so that young people could develop their business skills, the concept has now expanded to include managers and executives who seek to improve their skills even at an advanced stage of their career.
Here’s why mentoring is important at all levels of a professional career and how you can embrace a mentoring mindset – and become a mentor or mentee in your profession.
Benefits of Mentoring for Senior-Level Executives
Climbing the corporate ladder of success means mastering challenges on each run before proceeding to the next level. But as you rise to the top, there are fewer peers to share ideas, ask for guidance or clarification, or gather feedback. The expression “it’s lonely at the top” comes to mind.
Mentoring pairs you with someone at or above your level of expertise so that you’re no longer alone. You now have a seasoned professional upon which to bounce ideas, seek input, or ask for help.
Many executives dislike asking for help from their peers within an organization. They may be afraid that asking for help means they are showing weakness as a leader. When your mentor is at the same leadership level as you but works for another organization, the fear of appearing weak evaporates.
Priorities for Executive Mentoring
“But wait,” you may ask, “if I’m an executive, doesn’t that mean that I have mastered the skills I need to do a good job?” Yes, and no.
Executives have clearly mastered many of the skills needed to lead an organization and have gained the trust of others. They may still have blind spots, however. Most executives need help with three areas: delegating, time management, and running effective meetings.
Delegating tasks is a skill many top workers struggle with. They feel it is easier to do a task themselves than to explain and delegate it to others. The problem with this attitude is that you can quickly become overwhelmed with work if you do not have good delegation skills.
Time management is another area many executives need coaching on because they spread themselves too thin. They overbook their schedules or burn out because they do not book any personal or ‘down time’ into their schedules.
Lastly, executives aren’t alone in the struggle to run effective meetings. Running a good meeting is a skill that can be learned. A mentor can coach you through the steps needed to improve your skills in these areas.
Finding a Mentor and Building a Relationship
Mentors can be found among professional associations, business groups, and other groups in which you already participate. Seek someone whose skills you admire and who you believe you can learn from on a regular basis.
Mentors and mentees should meet regularly, such as once a month. Mentors and mentees should establish clear goals, timelines, and milestones to achieve the goals. Expectations and accountabilities should be set for the relationship so that the time spent working together is focused and practical.
A specific plan, especially a written plan of action, helps with accountability issues. So too does meeting face to face. Schedule time to meet together so that it’s in your planner or calendar.
Lastly, be open and receptive to feedback from your mentor. Growth can be painful, and hearing feedback even if it is couched in gentle terms can be difficult.
Mentors are no longer relegated to college graduates entering the workplace. Today, executives at all levels know that having a mentor can make all the difference to their careers.
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