Challenging Times Call for A Focus on Mentoring
I’ve recently been thinking a lot about mentoring both personally and professionally. Mentoring has the power to create deeper connections, build a greater sense of belonging, and to pass on knowledge and perspective to others. Those are powerful impacts, especially in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous times.
At its core, the spirit of mentoring is about a parallel journey of mutual discovery. There is as much to be gained in the relationship for both the mentor and for the mentee. Because of the versatility of mentoring, its potential uses are limitless. It’s also a unique development modality in our current VUCA environment.
How We’re Thinking About Mentoring Today
On the professional side, over the past six months we have been working on a few mentoring programs for our clients. One project is building an employee-driven resource guide that maps out every step of the mentoring lifecycle. It provides an employee with the tools to set their mentoring goals, approach a potential mentor, launch the mentoring relationship, and wrap it up once it reaches its close. It’s genius, especially when learning and development teams are understaffed and overwhelmed.
Another project is building a formal 6-month, company-wide mentoring program targeted toward people of color. It’s a beautiful development component that’s a part of an overall diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. By bringing diverse communities together, the client is hoping for deeper understanding and greater inclusion—one mentor-mentee pairing at a time.
On the personal side, a mentor of mine passed away recently. At her memorial service, I thought extensively about the impact she had left on so many mentees in our community.
She reminded me of just how flexible mentoring can and should be. She never gave more than was needed. Some mentees she worked with needed more and some needed less. What’s magical is she knew who needed what and when.
That is true finesse.
For me, she made a few key introductions that led to new volunteer and board opportunities. For others who shared at the memorial, the relationship was much different. What I love about her legacy (and what I strive to emulate in my community) is that she kept her public footprint to a minimum. She quietly went about the work of building others up so they could stand on their own and do the same for others in the future. No need for credit. She did it for the pure joy of helping someone else grow.
What has become clear across both my recent professional and personal mentoring experiences is that mentoring is bespoke—it’s not about giving everything to everyone all the time. It can be driven by a mentee or from a mentor. It can last a short or long period of time. It can be a component within a larger development strategy or stand alone. It can be focused toward a very specific skill that the mentee needs or be more general in nature.
How can you begin to rethink mentoring and its many uses? As learning and development professionals, we are in a unique position to bring mentoring experiences to our organizations. Plus, personally participate in mentoring others. It doesn’t have to be formal or long and drawn out. It’s about giving people just enough of what they need just when they need it.
Mentoring is truly the great multiplier. So, as we move into 2021, how can we leverage mentoring relationships to multiply your influence and impact?