“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” (Steven Spielberg)
There are many famous mentor relationships that demonstrate the advantages of this special setup: from the real people like Haydn and Beethoven to the fictional of Dumbledore and Harry Potter. Sometimes it’s a distinct decision from both parties, other times it just happens. If it’s done well, it can give a lot to both parties.
At work, it can be someone in the team, or another leader in similar situation, or someone from a whole other department. There is also reverse mentoring when someone younger is the mentor, usually in topics like technology, social media.
“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton
Mentoring is about helping the mentee with the mentor’s experience, knowledge and often times, network. To be exposed to this can be motivating, it can push the mentee further, can give accountability and structure.
It needs however dedication and honesty from both sides. If the mentor is trying to push their own agenda, or brags about their achievements, it won’t work. It will not provide a learning opportunity. Similarly, if the mentee is not open enough to acknowledge where they need help, or is not willing to take the steps needed to get ahead, the mentorship will fail.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” (Winston Churchill)
Therefore we have to pay attention to both sides: we have to prepare the mentor on how to help someone else constructively (it does not come naturally to all), and we also have to prepare the mentee so they are able to put it the required work and openness.
“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” (Bob Proctor)
A mentor can be the leader, but the leader also needs to recognise when they can’t be the right mentors to the person in their team. It can be a question of style, availability or background. It doesn’t make them any less of a leader, it doesn’t mean that the team member is not suited to be in that leader’s team, it only means that they need someone else as well.
Have you ever mentored someone or been mentored by someone? What was the best part about it?