The Value of Mentorship

The Value of Mentorship

When I was young, I felt I knew everything, and as I gained more confidence, I also became more stupid. This overly confident period of my youth lasted longer than any average person could ever want, but I continued my journey as the self-appointed know-it-all, which lasted until I entered the business world and quickly discovered I had countless shortcomings. During this time of realization, I worked extremely hard to achieve some success, but was I working in a smart and coordinated fashion? Was I building the skillsets to move to the next level? Was I making the right decisions?

Why Seek Out a Mentor?

Months and then years went by. I was recognized as a hard worker, but I wanted more. I wanted to be the boss, the boss's boss, and I was unsure if hard work was the only attribute to possess. Paying close attention to my peers, subordinates, and leadership, I began noticing how they all approached situations or problems differently. I watched how some leaders would provide direction and remain in control. I also noted how some leaders panicked at the drop of a hat and lost the respect and confidence of their subordinates. I observed and scrutinized the good and the bad, putting into my toolbox the most constructive lessons from each instance, so I could execute more effectively and gain the trust of all team members, junior and senior. A mentor and close friend used to say, “John, be the duck. Paddle like hell under the water where no one can see, but remain stoic and in control above the water to instill a sense of comfort and confidence.” I still think of this today, its meaning never losing its value.

As I started to move up the corporate chain, I realized I needed direction; I needed a mentor. Initially, I viewed asking for a mentor was implied in my actions and not necessarily something that you executed directly. Well, I was obviously wrong, realizing the only way to find a suitable mentor and build a relationship was to ask. After all, you get in what you put out, plain and simple.

I finally understood this and sought out someone I saw as confident, successful, and knowledgeable enough to be my mentor, and to my surprise, they agreed. At this opportunity, I asked questions without fear of judgement, and was provided with answers. In turn, I was asked questions, challenged, and I provided answers. I learned faster than in previous years because this was both academic and situational, and absorbing this style of guidance and knowledge sharing was never tiring, no matter the topic.

As my career progressed, I was asked to become a mentor, which was when I panicked. I began to question my knowledge of the mentorship. Were my skillsets sufficient? Did I have the communication skills to convey a message without being demeaning? Doubts, hesitations, confusions, and more rushed through my mind. I soon forced myself to step out of my comfort zone, and have not looked back since. Once I had the opportunity to mentor someone, I quickly grasped I was gaining as much knowledge from them as I was providing.

I aim to mentor as many people as possible while I have the relevant ability and insight to provide the mentee with something beneficial. As of today, I set aside time on my calendar to ensure I am focused and prepared for each session, so I can provide value to the mentee. I have been fortunate in my professional career, but truly, one of the most rewarding collaborations is sharing a mentor/mentee experience.

I ask each of you reading this to reach out to someone you feel would be a suitable mentor, and I also ask each person being asked to accept the challenge and treat it like you treat your work. Be prepared, communicate effectively, listen, and most importantly, make yourself available to give back to your community. Step outside your comfort zone and go for it; you will not regret your decision.

Below are only a few examples of personal and professional growth that can transpire when mentoring or being mentored:

Benefits of Being a Mentor:

  • Validate your leadership skills
  • Be recognized as an advisor
  • Learn to communicate more effectively
  • Gain a new perspective from your mentee
  • Give back and identify new talents (my personal favorite)

Benefits of Being a Mentee:

  • Learn more about the business and its culture
  • Enhance skill development
  • Networking opportunities
  • Potential for promotions
  • Problem-solving
  • Knowledge transfer

In closing, both the mentor and the mentee must commit to this partnership. If not taken seriously, if the effort is one-sided, if the mentor is using his cadre of mentees as a trophy, and if used simply as a strategy to kiss the right backside in the hopes of being promoted, it will never work. I highly encourage each of you to pursue this in your personal and professional lives, and if executed correctly, you will never look back.

Recent Posts