To me, mentoring means listening, learning and developing.
Over my career, the mentors who stand out listened, offered feedback and had confidence in me. They gave me ideas and insights on how to stretch myself and, just as importantly, how to recover from setbacks.
My first mentor was my father. He instilled values of honesty, integrity and respect for others in all of his children. With seven of us and a successful career, he was stretched in many directions. His work ethic, fairness, tireless determination and passion for life inspired me and continue to influence me.
When I moved into the workforce and throughout my career, the mentors I sought were those who had strong values, a broad view of the organization, and acted in the interests of the overall company. They helped me better understand my capabilities. They coached me as I tackled difficult challenges head-on, while still allowing me to be true to my personal values.
As I’ve moved into leadership roles and had the good fortune to mentor others, I focus on four areas:
- The first is giving a perspective on the company, our strategy, the roles within the organization and the skill profiles needed to succeed.
- The second is cultivating an honest self-awareness of strengths and areas for development.
- The third is to help identify career priorities in areas such as job content, title, progression and financial rewards.
- Finally, I focus on being a safe, confidential sounding-board and advisor. A mentor should be a safe haven to talk about doubts and frustrations and seek feedback and advice. We all have set- backs and doubts along the way. Dealing with them is part of what helps us grow. I truly love to be there to celebrate successes. But when things don’t go as expected, being there and providing continued support are critical.
In my experience, successful mentoring relationships seldom just happen. It’s important to take every opportunity to seek out those you respect as strong, capable leaders. And, most important- ly, as you progress to a position of leadership and influence, give back. Reach out to talented individuals in your company, help them understand their capabilities and opportunities, and open as many doors as you can. Mentoring develops your company’s talent, affects performance and gives you valuable insight into what’s really happening out there.