Want to build a learning organization or are you looking to accelerate your career? Then you need a mentor. Mentoring provides a powerful resource for personal and professional growth through sharing expertise, skills, perspectives, experience, and knowledge. If a mentee takes ownership of the relationship, as they should, they will receive tremendous benefits in the following areas:
Improve your self awareness. Mentors are a third person who can give you that all important perspective on the issues you are seeking to solve. Have a team member that is just driving you crazy? Don't get into a fight on the floor (yes I did have this scenario happen). A good mentor will help you to think through your challenges and come to your own conclusions. Being able to understand who you are and the role you are playing in the particular situation will take a you a long way toward your goals.
A opportunity to expand your network. A mentor does not always have all of the answers you are looking for, however, they do have a network and someone they know may have those answers. An opportunity to meet experts who can provide advice is very powerful; not to mention the chance to enhance potential future opportunities. Often my mentor does not have the answer but after carefully questioning I can point me to someone who does. I know of several occasions that I did not have the answer the to the issue being presented by the mentee and I was able to refer them to someone in my network who did. Don't focus on picking mentors for their expertise rather for their position and experience; then you can learn how to achieve similar goals.
Exposure to senior leaders. Make sure that when you are looking for potential mentors identify individuals that are in roles you hope to achieve during your career journey. Senior level people can provide a clear perspective for you and it will be much easier to evaluate their feedback when you recognize that your mentor has probably been there and done that. This is not about perfection and setting mentors that are to high up in senior management won't work. Mentoring is about active dialog and not always having your problems solved. Don’t ask your friends or peers to be your mentor. You want a third person's point of view. I am not saying don’t develop friendships with your peers; I am saying seek out advice from those in the next level or higher.
Mentors are a sounding board for your ideas and plans. If you are planning a new project or looking at potential employers a mentor will be able to actively listen to what you are considering and help you to draw effective conclusions. For discussion and guidance the opportunity to test approaches, ideas, or other activates is important and being able to do so without it being a part of your annual review is an unique opportunity to you as a mentee.
Opportunity to view issues from another perspective. Having someone to give you that important third person's perspective. How many times have you been told that you are too close to a situation to make the best decisions? Our decision making ability can easily be clouded by the events that are affecting our daily lives. Getting a chance to review the situation and explain what we are doing and how things are evolving around you in terms a third person can understand will enable you to get outside of the situation. I have had several situations when, after reviewing them with my mentor, I was able to handle in a much more effective manner than had a taken the original action I was pondering. Again having someone to bounce your ideas off of will enable you to make the right decision for the situation.
Constructive feedback. Getting the constructive feedback on your strengths and weakness is so much easier when the person providing this feedback is not your boss or someone with an influence on your year end review or your compensation. A forum for constructive feedback, will give a foundation to build upon, don't expect the feedback to always be positive. A good mentor will tell you when you need to get your head together.
Don't expect a perfect relationship. Mentorship is a growing process and a mentee can build skills and knowledge while attaining her development goals in this safe environment. Effective relationships happen when the mentee is actually initiating the driving the relationship with a set of personal goals in mind. I will explain more in a later post.