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(posted: April 20th, 2010)
As leaders, we appreciate the mentors, leaders, and role models upon whose shoulders we stood. We carefully consider the support and guidance we are consciously and unconsciously providing for those who come after us.
The journey of being a mentor or a mentee is an investment that can be, at a minimum, a way to grow. Or at best, a life-altering experience
In this blog post, I will focus on the impact these relationships can have on you and your organization as you grow your leadership skills. My next blog will share some practice tips for setting the relationship up for both short and long-term success.
First, let's define the terms of both "mentor" and "mentee":
men tor [men tawr, ter] noun
men tee [men tee] noun
A mentor is very much like a coach; being able to be compassionate, act as counsel yet isn't afraid to criticize constructively, and teach difficult lessons. A mentee must be fully engaged in the learning and development process.
The organizational and personal reasons to use mentoring are significant and long-lasting:
At Sun Microsystems mentoring was used for larger corporate purposes in addition to improving the performance of individuals.
At Sun, mentoring has been used to bring in new or acquired individuals and groups, to improve the network between existing groups in different organizations, and to reduce isolation of those geographically distant from headquarters.
"If your top management isn't spending at least a half day a month sitting down with someone twenty five-years old or younger, then they are blowing it."
Being a mentor supports your organization, whether your mentee is within the organization or outside it; and being a mentee is an investment in your own future and success.
There may be misconception that the mentor/mentee relationship is one-way, with the mentor sharing experiences and teachings with the mentee and the mentee being the only one that gains from the relationship.
Mentor/Mentee relationships are a two-way street that can have a very positive impact on the career and personal development for both parties. That is if the relationship is set up for success. I have seen a number of “Mentoring Programs” in the workforce that are forced upon people with little structure or support. These also are without the few key elements will be end up being a big waste of time and lead to frustration with both parties.
Continuous improvement is accomplished by trial and error. So be patient and enjoy the ride!
I would love to hear how your organization has benefited from a short or long term culture of mentoring. Please look to my next blog post where I will share some tips for setting the relationship up for success.