There are two ways for you to get involved: 1) have a mentor and 2) be a mentor.
Before we get into what is involved with mentoring, let me be clear: mentoring is not coaching. Here are my simple definitions for both.
Mentoring – Sharing time with someone, for the purpose of asking questions on a certain subject or about how something specific was done or of gaining their perspective on something.
Coaching – An intense relationship that follows a created plan, keeps accountability, and monitors growth; often used to challenge us and establish healthy habits.
You see, there is no excuse for not being mentored or mentoring someone else; all it takes is scheduling time together and having a purposeful conversation.
There are many benefits to a mentoring relationship. Here are a few:
- Creates new and deepens established relationships (grows your network)
- Reinforces self-worth and increases self-esteem
- Increases knowledge
- Allows practice at asking good questions
So what is needed to get started?
- Be available. A mentoring meeting could be 15 minutes or an hour; give and ask for whatever you can get, but make time for it by scheduling it.
- Be specific. A mentee who asks to be mentored should let their mentor know the purpose to the meeting prior to meeting. Provide questions ahead of time for them to consider.
- Set a schedule. Once a week, once a month, once a quarter; it doesn’t matter as long as you both agree and define when the commitment is over – either after a set amount of meetings or a length of time.
- Be open. Advice, gained from experience, is offered, based on the questions asked. This is not a “how to” conversation, but a perspective given by someone with experience. Reflect on what is said and take action on what is relevant for you. Mentors should not expect mentees to do things like they did them.
- Get to know. Before diving into “business,” take time to get to know one another on a personal level. This will enable you to gain better context and build a stronger relationship.
- Reverse mentor. Take advantage of your meeting. Mentors (who are usually older) should take advantage of their meeting time with mentees (who are usually younger). The generations have something to offer each other in the way of cultural understanding. Don’t stay uninformed, ask about something your mentee may know that you haven’t yet learned.
Now you are ready to start a mentoring relationship. This week, pick a development theme in which you want to improve. This could be change management, public speaking, or authoring a book to name a few. Then seek out someone who you believe is where you want to be. Ask them to lunch (not many people turn down a free lunch) and propose a mentoring relationship.
Next, seek out opportunities where you can be a mentor to someone else. It could be a direct report, someone from a different department, volunteering at a community organization (like Big Brothers, Big Sisters), or getting involved with your alma mater mentoring college students. If you look, you will find people who want to be mentored; they just need you!