Much has been written in the past few years about mentorship in the work, job and personal environments. The idea that seems to get posited over and over again is that having a mentor should increase one’s success in life—be it at the job, in personal challenges and life in general.
A mentor is someone who is willing to share, help, explore, teach, counsel, and guide an individual when he/she is taking on a new task. That task could be as simple as learning how to swing a golf club, or as complicated as adapting and adjusting in a new organization. In most instances today, a mentor is commonly thought of as a colleague who will help another colleague learn new material, provide some different focus and direction in allowing an individual to become successful in a job environment.
In the work environment, a mentor may be a senior corporate officer who has experienced what the new employee is just now learning. This individual, who is probably not in the employee’s supervisory chain can explain, show and describe tasks, processes and procedures that the new employee is unfamiliar with. These meetings can take place over a breakfast meeting, a cup of coffee or a round of golf or racquetball at the gym.
One role of the mentor is to help guide the mentee along the way—however, allowing the mentee to “fall and fail” is also a valuable part of the experience. No one wants someone to fail, however, in failure is learning and forward progress. I have had many mentees—I rarely allow them to fail, however, viable and strong learning transpires when someone tries something and discovers that it does not work—even though we may have had a similar discussion on the matter just the week before.
The mentorship relationship must be maintained in a professional manner at all times. Throughout the experience that you have as a mentor, it is sometimes easy to assume what in transactional analysis is defined as a “parent-child” relationship. A mentor relationship is not that—it is a professional relationship between two professionals. Discussions of matters such as intimate family matters, financial concerns and other non-job related areas are not appropriate. Many companies have rules and regulations regarding what is and is not acceptable in a mentorship relationship.
Good common sense is the best guideline—the mentee wants to know how to be successful, just like the mentor. The other concerns, although of possible interest, are not germane to successful mentorship.
With more millennial age employees entering the work force, some baby boomers may feel insecure or intimidated about the millennial’s use of digital technology. Here is a case where in one instance, you serve as a mentor helping a new employee. In the next minute, the millennial employee is your mentor, teaching you new digital technology that you may not have experienced. The relationship is dual path—i.e., one time you are the mentor, the next time, you are the mentee!
Mentoring is fun! As a mentor, you have the opportunity to aid and assist another individual grow, learn and mature in his/her future. It could be a job, hobby or life in general. Taking this role seriously will ensure that you help the mentee be a better employee/individual and you will receive more intrinsic satisfaction than you ever imagined.