WHY BE A MENTOR?
Why, you might ask, should I take on a new responsibility like this? There are any number of warm and fuzzy reasons to embrace mentoring, most notable is the ample personal reward you will feel impacting someone else’s professional and personal development — it is a magnificent feeling. Secondly, there’s the old precept that says “a rising tide lifts all boats.” In this instance, the rising tide is the knowledge and wisdom absorbed by a new community of future leaders — at least one of which would be working for you. We have an aging workforce in America and population growth of about 1 percent. First-wave Baby Boomers have begun turning 60 and will be retiring in significant numbers. How will we replace all of that “institutional knowledge” from those departing workers? It’s not a brain drain — it’s a talent hemorrhage. There are a lot of other solid business reasons to become a mentor starting today:
1. You will be developing
strong leadership skills for your very best
2. You will fast-track the confidence building that all leaders need to shine and advance.
3. You will engage and retain the very best people to your organization.
4. You will have access to fresh perspectives from the younger members of your team; learning goes both ways.
5. You will receive recognition and praise for your dedication — particularly if your program is formalized.
If you’re working with an employee, you must trust that your shining investment will not only brighten their still dark corners but also reflect back in some positive fashion, at some time down the road, on you and your organization. Manage that and you’ve got a case of relational symbiosis. (Definition: a mutually beneficial relationship between two people in which each person is dependent and receives nourishing reinforcement.) Fancy language that boils down to this: If your company has one or two diamonds in the rough, a supportive, motivational and “sticky” mentoring relationship can not only engage them, but also bond them to your firm. Have you ever heard anyone say they have too many superstars on staff? Me neither.
Another great reason to embrace any potential role as a mentor is the inherent good precipitated by “paying it forward.” Surely, all political persuasions can agree that the most thriving ecosystems and economies are in a constant state of replenishment and growth. This publication’s readership and industry leadership is not quite ready to retire to the stud farm — although I do know a couple of heavy-skulled gentlemen who, after a few drinks in Las Vegas, believe their stud services are desperately sought after.
Mentoring matters. If you’re not certain if it’s worth your time or energy, consider this: Our most successful business stars invariably speak of the formal and informal mentors who provided both general guidance as well as very specific “life and business rules” that set them solidly on the path and made them what they are. Rare are the truly self-made successes.
Have you been influenced by a mentor? I certainly have. Chances are quite good that a number of the central principles that govern your behavior were implanted from a respected outside source. Pay attention to the lines you frequently hear yourself reciting to your employees or even family members. Listen for clues. For me, I found myself cautioning employees that “An order isn’t an order until it’s paid for.” I didn’t come up with that line but that succinct philosophy is very much alive in me.
DO YOU REALLY HAVE THE RIGHT STUFF?
Beyond the necessary virtuous principles mentioned above, there are some other practical traits that need assessing. Test your fit by answering these rapid response questions as honestly as possible.
1. When kids accidentally kick their ball into your
yard, do you bring out a pitcher of lemonade
and give them a quick history of property rights in
America before coughing up the ball?
2. Are you always complaining that Hollywood doesn’t make enough “sidekick” movies?
3. Do you always run long during the PowerPoint portion of your Geology Rocks Workshop on Career Day at the Sunnyvale Toddler Academy?
4. As one who sees the teaching potential in every happening, would you review proper chute packing techniques with the Junior Skydivers during your death plummet or would you workshop that during the years of intensive rehab you’ll all have once your feet are dislodged from your pelvis?