Who Are You Mentoring?

Mentoring seems to be a hot topic these days, and it’s the subject of many conversations and blogs. Certainly, mentoring is critical and I’m a believer, but I wonder if the mentoring discussion is because of genuine concern or just the flavor of the month. The truth is that most mentoring programs fail, and I could write a series of articles on the reasons why and the secrets to avoiding those pitfalls. However, today I want to invite you to consider a different perspective on mentoring by answering this question: Who are you mentoring?

The reason I ask is that we often get the mentoring cycle backwards. Most mentoring relationships start one of two ways: 1. An organization or team creates a mentoring program (often without enough forethought, clear expectations or commitments); or 2. One person (the prospective mentee) asks someone else (the prospective mentor) to mentor them. But as with so many things, there is always an additional perspective. I’m talking about seeking out people to mentor.

Unfortunately, we have come to believe that mentoring only goes uphill, meaning someone is assigned or seeks out a mentor who has more experience or wisdom. In other words, the mentee is only looking for something from the mentor, and this is one of the main reasons that mentoring relationships fail – it’s seen as a one-way street with the mentor providing the value to the mentee. However, there are many incredible gifts, lessons and blessings that come from mentoring. So I say, go out and find people to mentor.

In various capacities, I formally mentor many people (about ten right now), and I also often serve as an informal mentor for many others. While it does require an investment of time and energy, I have found it not only fulfilling for the giving, but rewarding for the growth that I experience through the mentoring experience. Because of this truth I encourage my mentees to find people to mentor, and I’m inviting you to do the same.

Who do you know at your business or in your life that you could support through mentoring? It may seem odd or feel uncomfortable (or perhaps presumptuous) offering to mentor someone, but this is the best way to create impactful and mutual mentoring relationships. Simply put, if you want to become a better leader, mentoring others is one of the key ingredients. So I ask you again, Who are you mentoring? 

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