When people think of mentoring, they often associate it with an older executive who counsels a promising newbie.
The senior leader advises the junior employee on his career, navigating office politics and what’s needed to get ahead. But mentoring has dramatically changed over the last few decades.
Mentors focus on the qualities of wisdom and judgment. By sharing what they have learned from experience, they provide perspective. They tell us the unspoken rules and point out the imaginary lines one should not cross. They help us explore the consequences of our decisions.~ Shirley Peddy, The Art of Mentoring: Lead, Follow and Get Out of the Way, Bullion Books, 2001
Maybe you find yourself stuck in a career rut or itching to broaden your skills and take on new challenges. Perhaps you’re eyeing a higher-level management role or other professional advancement. If you wait for senior managers to notice you and “bring you along,” you’ll be disappointed with the wait—assuming a promotion ever happens.
Effective mentoring is essential for leadership development. Done right, it’s one of the most powerful tools for gaining wisdom, reaping the rewards of job growth and achieving a strong competitive advantage in today’s job marketplace. Successful leaders mentor, coach and partner with their employees instead of practicing command-and-control management. Top organizations are more adaptive, innovative and smart about bringing out the best in their people. Employees are always learning, and managers are always teaching.
That said, it’s up to you to cultivate a beneficial mentoring relationship—and to pursue it with rigor and commitment. Don’t wait for an official mentoring program opportunity. Seek out someone with the kind of leadership wisdom you admire, and ask them questions. Explore with them a possible mentoring relationship, one that might be mutually interesting. Then request a trial mentoring period so you both can evaluate the benefits.
In my work with high potential people, almost all benefit from a relationship with someone more skilled and experienced in their organizations. A good mentor can save you time and energy by pointing you in the right direction.
What’s been your experience with mentoring? I’d love to hear from you.
Author: Cathy Shaughnessy
Cathy Shaughnessy is a PRISM award-winning ICF Master Certified Coach and author of the book series The Really Competent Coach. Cathy coaches senior leaders, mentors credentialed coaches, trains fledgeling coaches and helps organizations build strong coaching cultures. Cathy recommends lots of great tools for coaches. You can find them here.