We all need help along the way. Whether we work in corporations, government agencies, not-for-profits, educational institutions or hospitals, working with, learning from, and helping each other are keys to our success. I happen to work in a large corporation and it has been my experience that when people work together wonderful things can happen. Successful leaders foster this kind of collaborative environment while allowing individual strengths to develop. And this is where mentoring comes in.
Many of us have had the experience of working on teams or in groups growing up. You learned from the coach, of course, but you probably also learned from your older, more experienced teammates. Maybe we didn’t call it such at the time, but this was mentoring.
I have been very fortunate in my career to have had people all along the way who guided and supported me, starting with my parents, my first mentors. They taught me that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do if I put my mind to it. Later, I went to law school at night while working in the law department of a large company. The lawyers there were incredibly generous of their time and energy, always ready with advice, talking about the law, helping me when I had questions, and giving me what amounted to a real-life legal education.
As I look back on my career, it seems to me that I flourished in places where I felt supported, encouraged, and trusted. There certainly have been companies where I didn’t find that sort of environment. I think you have to seek out supportive places and people.
The second part of the equation is to share that help. Good leaders cultivate an environment of trust and continually invest in their people. Helping and encouraging people to find ways they can contribute build confidence, morale, and momentum. Communication is key. Listening is crucial. People are wonderfully different and diverse but everybody needs to feel heard and acknowledged. This kind of mentoring can be formal or informal, but it is something we owe each other and our organizations. If we do this, then we have not only created a positive and productive environment for the present, but also are fostering confident future leaders who will carry that positive energy forward.