According to author Father James Keller, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” In a similar way, I believe mentors guide others in career and personal pursuits without sacrificing their own goals or energy. As leaders, we have a responsibility to share our knowledge and help others develop in their careers and personal lives.
Certainly, there are many forms of mentoring. While many of us, myself included, may yearn to follow the sage career advice of a single mentor, it’s not always as easy as it may seem. For formal mentoring to work, there needs to be good chemistry. You can’t force it. There should be shared interests and a level of trust that allows for an open exchange of ideas and insights. At Avnet, we are creating a formal mentoring program that will match senior professionals with employees interested in participating. However, if after the first meeting the interest isn’t there to continue, that’s OK.
Other forms of mentoring may be more informal. I’ve encountered many interesting and wonderful people over the years, and I’ve learned that everyone has gifts. I try to take away nuggets of wisdom whenever I meet someone. For example, a supervisor I met early in my career had an excellent follow-up system. He did everything in triplicate, giving one copy to me and keeping the others for himself so he knew when to follow up. He taught me how important it is to meet deadlines and keep your commitments. We don’t keep things in triplicate any more, but I have developed similar ways to keep track of things so I can stay on top of work assignments and personal tasks.
Mentoring can also take the form of coaching, such as sharing personal experiences and subject matter expertise. I look for the other person to initiate the relationship and to take responsibility for his or her development.
The best part of mentoring? By sharing my thoughts, I learn, too. As you engage in dialogue, you work through your ideas and sometimes come up with different ways of looking at things that help put everything in perspective.