Many of you already know about my passion for mentorship. It is something that I’ve personally benefitted from, believe deeply in and am committing to paying forward wherever and whenever possible. And while no one will dispute the benefits that mentorship has on those receiving the advice, I recently came across some research that really hit home with me: mentorship doesn’t just benefit mentees, but truly benefits those who offer their time to help others.
The University of Massachusetts Rhodes Lab Center for Evidence-based mentoring conducted research comparing colleagues who did not mentor to individuals who served as mentors within their workplace. And, guess what? Findings showed greater job satisfaction and commitment to the organization. In addition, higher quality relationships were associated with even greater benefits.
And even more specific distinctions emerged.
- Mentors who engaged in career support perceived that they had greater career success
- Mentors who engaged in psychosocial support reported being more committed to their workplace
- Mentors who engaged in role modeling support reported better job performance
And that just makes sense to me. In many ways, mentorship is about being engaged, being curious, being a great listener and being able to share relevant and meaningful experiences. The best mentorships are built on just that -- the relationship – the give and take and shaping of what’s possible as you tackle challenges and opportunities. And that’s exactly what makes it most gratifying for everyone.
Those who know me well know that I lost my mom at an early age. My mom was my very first mentor. Her wisdom, ability to hear me, guide me and get me back on track when I needed a direction revamp helped shape who I am today. And along the way, I have had many mentors who have left a lasting impression on me from my coaches, to teachers to leaders here at Edelman. Each has left a lasting impression and helped make me a better me.
And while I am happy to offer my advice and share my experiences, there is one truly important point. The best mentorship just happens. While we can assign mentors, mentorships that evolve organically are usually the most beneficial, the most satisfying and ones that bring up our next tier of outstanding mentors. And a mentor can come from anywhere. The best match need not always be your direct manager or report. You might strike up a meaningful relationship with someone outside of your core business, someone from beyond the workplace or someone you meet along the way.
There is no rule book on being a good mentor, but I believe there are key ingredients that contribute to successful partnering:
BE PRESENT OR PASS
Throughout my life, I have worked hard to make time for others. Even in a fully booked day, I find time to help my mentees navigate their careers. When you take on this responsibility though, it’s important to keep that date and make the time. Remember, your mentee is depending on it. It’s stating the obvious, but once you commit, be present. No phones, no distractions. The meetings need not be long, but they should be concentrated. And it’s OK to sometimes say “no.” It is much better than saying yes and feeling regret later.
LEND AN EAR
Powerful connections are built on good listening. Listen first, there is always nuance. Be a considered sounding board. Then be thoughtful in your advice. Talking through scenarios, brainstorming possibilities and sharing perspective will be born out of these meaningful conversations. If you can impart personal wisdom it will help your mentees power through.
ARRIVE WITH A SOLUTION
Early in my career one of my managers would ask “what would you do?” This question helped guide me to come equipped with a potential solution. Your mentee need not have all the answers but having thought through what is possible always makes for a more spirited conversation. Even if it doesn’t fly, it’s much better to encourage ideas for pushing things forward.
LIFT UP FOR LIFT OFF
When you are leading others it’s easy to point out mistakes and flaws. Positive encouragement brings out the best in everyone, almost every time.
DON’T GO FOR THE FIX
Mentoring is not about fixing one’s flaws. It is about considered approaches to challenges and opportunities. Trying to fix someone or turn them into something they are not will simply lead to disappointment. Go in with the notion that you will help prop up, shape and guide rather than remake.
BE A FAIRY TO SOMEONE
Everyone needs a godfather/godmother. One of my long-standing mentees refers to me as her fairy godmother. And while we often laugh about this badge, I know in it there is magic. Everyone needs to be connected to someone who believes in you, genuinely cares, champions and advocates for you. As mentors, we almost always see something spectacular in those we mentor. Coaching and helping bring out the best in people is hallmark for excellent mentors.
Lisa Sepulveda is global chief client officer at Edelman.