A recent Forbes article focused on why people should be mentors and asked readers in their 50s and 60s the following question: “If you’re not mentoring someone, why not?”
Andrea Zintz, Ph.D., president of Strategic Leadership Resources (http://www.strategicleadershipresources.com/) supports that challenging query, and provides some thoughts on why to be a mentor.
Zintz notes that mentors make a significant commitment with respect to time and energy—resources often in short supply. The successful professionals who typically make the best mentors usually lead busy lives, so it’s not unusual to wonder why they do it.
“For some, the reason might be a desire to leave their mark on the world and make a difference via mentoring,” Zintz says, adding that there are plenty more specific reasons why busy professionals add mentoring to an already jam-packed schedule. For instance:
- Developing employees with potential to move into management roles
- Passing along knowledge about office politics and/or how to be successful
- Training a successor so someone’s ready to take their place if they’re promoted, retire or choose to leave the company
- Strengthening what they already know by learning when teaching
- Reinforcing company culture
- Helping mentees see their own strengths
“It’s truly amazing how receiving support can change the course of someone’s career,” Zintz says. “I had an administrative assistant some years ago who had aspirations to advance in the area of employee development, but he didn’t possess the requisite training and development skills. I started giving him assignments in those areas, providing feedback on his performance and increasing his responsibilities as he demonstrated he was ready to take on more—and he ultimately became a very able trainer.”
While Zintz didn’t serve as a formal mentor, she behaved like one, and allowed her mentee to see his potential through her eyes. She notes that providing the conditions for building self-confidence is one of the most important things any mentor can provide a mentee.
Zintz goes on to say that mentors may find they benefit in unexpected ways from working with mentees. In particular, they may learn a lot about themselves and their work through the lens of the mentee. This may reinforce the mentor’s model of how to do business—and then there’s the surprising education that passes from mentee to mentor.
“Every time I’ve served in a mentoring capacity, I’ve learned from my mentees,” Zintz says. “It can be invaluable to mentor someone in a completely different functional area, e.g., pairing marketing pros with tech people, and it’s also interesting to get a view of the organization from a mentee’s perspective.”