Yesterday, I had dinner with a friend and colleague from work. We spoke about different things, but one topic, we spoke about a bit longer: leadership. Part of it was also how we can develop ourselves and what kind of help would be good. At one point in the conversation we spoke about the role of a mentor.
What I am about to write is my individual opinion and I invite you to critically reflect and even disagree.
As I became a mentor myself, and I am still figuring out how to be a good one, speaking about it also helped myself to get a better understanding of what is needed. Of course, my role as a mentor differs a bit from what I am about to write, as my mentee is not working for me or even at the same company. I am also aware that every mentee has his/her own goals and questions when it comes to a mentor-mentee-relationship. Nevertheless, I think there are some similarities no matter the initial situation.
But why is a mentor important in the first place?
I consider myself still young and I know I have a lot to learn. And sure, I read a lot to get a better understanding of things, but some things are hard to come by. They are rooted in experience. That is why an experienced mentor can be a powerful driver for personal development. He or she can provide an outside perspective, they can give you advice, challenge you, and provide you with much needed feedback.
But why are there so little of those relationships within a company? There might be different reasons. One of those my friend provided. She asked me, if I can ask someone to be my mentor or if I already asked someone. The answer is no. There are reasons to it, but the question was good. And she came up with an even better question: Does this person need to be in the same company and/or your manager? This kept me thinking. There is definitively value to have a mentor outside of your work. He or she can broaden your perspective and there are many other benefits in not being too close (with regards to working together).
However, for me I felt that at the moment I’d rather have someone at work who could be a mentor. I’ll tell you why. I want to be a better leader. This comes only with experience, meaning being in a leadership position and having responsibility. The benefit of a mentor who works with you is that he or she can observe you. The mentor can nudge you, he/she can challenge you to grow.
How do I envision it?
I think that it is good to sit together to make a plan what I want to work at during a defined period. Then every week or bi-weekly, we sit together to talk about the progress. This would include self-evaluation, evaluation from the mentor and, if necessary, adjusting the goals or the action steps. Those talks would be conducted with complete honesty. Sure, I might grumble and be angry when I receive bad feedback, but when I get the time to reflect, I know about the value and I would work even harder. I like myself when I am in this “I will show you”-attitude.
So why didn’t I ask someone?
Well, at the moment it is not possible. I am the only one on a project and the manager is probably happy that I don’t write or need anything which means everything goes as planned. But I also didn’t ask during earlier projects. One reason is that I simply didn’t think about it. However, when thinking back there is also the problem who to ask. There is one person that comes to my mind who I’d like to have as a mentor, but we didn’t really work together. Although, I really enjoyed talking to her and her perspectives on things.
How I would like to be as a mentor at work?
Well, in addition to the things that I’d like to have, I would also offer something else. If I had a mentee at work, I’d do everything I can that he or she is developing. This can also mean that we come to a point where there is nothing more to gain from staying in this company. I think that my duty as a mentor would be to help him/her to find something else. Even when it means that he/she is leaving the company. You might think, well I cannot do this because my company would be mad at me. Yeah, maybe. But if this is the case, it is not a very strategic thought. When I help someone else, of course, this person will probably be grateful towards me, but it will also be grateful towards the company. This might attract other people. The best marketing are the stories people tell.
Well, this became kind of a self-interview 😀
What are your thoughts on this matter?
Love and hugs, Stephan