Mentoring is not a modern construct. If you can recall your high school Greek mythology, the goddess Athena disguised herself as Mentor, the original “wise and trusted counselor,” to become the teacher of Telemachus, Odysseus’ son. In today’s world, we find mentoring in almost all forums where learning takes place – some of it excellent, some of it forgettable. Most of us can recall having a “faculty adviser” in high school or college. This was education’s version of a mentor. But there is a difference between an adviser and a true mentor.
What is a mentor?
Broadly speaking, a mentor is a co-worker charged with helping another employee develop into a better worker. In education, a mentor takes on a more advisory role. In business, mentoring is more a personal and professional relationship. Regardless of the professional environment, a mentor and mentee must have a common goal in order to be successful.
Mentors should be available to help their mentees learn to manage the routine, daily challenges and mundane grind that can come with any profession. Mandatory mentoring isn’t necessary; it can be a voluntary process with the goal of guiding fellow professionals toward greater job satisfaction, fostering solid work habits and encouraging the growth of better leaders.
Mentoring for better business
A school is only as good as its teachers. Likewise, a business is only as good as its employees. Mentoring new teachers has become a standard practice in the education field, especially with employees who aspire to leadership roles. The same practices used in education mentoring are applicable to a business model. The goal of business mentoring is the grooming of a better leader for the business.
We offer here some common skills found in the best mentors for growing businesses:
- Commitment to mentoring role. To be successful, a mentor must commit to the process of mentoring fellow professionals. The mentor’s goal should be to help their mentees be successful in their roles within the business.
- Good mentors have empathy for their charges. To have empathy for another means to be accepting of that person without being judgmental. Personal beliefs and values must be set aside for the benefit of the mentee and the business as a whole. Mentors should practice critical reflection on their own performance in the mentoring role.
- A mentor must provide leadership support. Mentors to future business leaders must know how to bring out the leadership potential in fellow professionals. A better leader is one that has been properly groomed for the role within the business setting. Mentor training programs should prepare mentors with the skills, knowledge and dispositions needed to foster leadership skills in their mentees.
- Good mentors work well with varied interpersonal dynamics. All employees are not created equally. Mentors must be able to work with a multitude of personality types, cultural behaviors and levels of professional aspirations. Mentors must be able to reflect on their own objectivity toward mentees and make needed adjustments to their communication styles in order to meet the needs of their mentees.
- Projecting optimism is important. Mentors should project optimism to their mentees that they are capable of overcoming any challenges encountered and prevail in their goals within the business. This is especially important when mentoring a potential business leader. A positive outlook for the company is a pillar on which a better leader can build his or her leadership skills.
A Better Leader
Building a better leader starts with mentoring programs that can help identify employees with leadership potential. Focusing on mentoring can foster a working environment in which employees feel comfortable in letting their ideas and personalities emerge for the betterment of the business. Giving new employees the opportunity to receive guidance from some of the best professionals within your organization is a great way to ensure continuity of your business.