Mentorships Are The Connections That Bring All The Pieces Together
Leadership Lesson: Don’t forgo any part of your personal efficiency and strength, or that of your team or organization, by ignoring the importance of mentorship.
Mentoring is a powerful tool and experience. Both the mentor and the mentee can gain from the relationship, with each side walking away more refined and better prepared for having partaken in, and extracted advantages from, the relationship.
In order to avoid its underestimation, the mentoring relationship should not be seen as an arrangement in which the mentee and mentor are assigned and the mentee is merely learning and gaining new information from the mentor. There’s more to it than that.
Through mentoring, there is not only a transfer of knowledge regarding the environment from one partner to the other but also refinement of what each partner already knows.
Yes, the mentee benefits from the mentor’s extensive knowledge and specialized background, but he or she also can make great strides by listening to how the mentor sees, understands, and interprets the work or environment — the common denominator between the two partners.
Beyond the transferring of information and lessons, mentors should repackage that knowledge into wisdom. Yes, knowledge and wisdom are different. Knowledge is the collection and retention of information, while wisdom is becoming self-aware about how you’re going to use that knowledge best, knowing its strengths and blind spots, as well as its reach and limitations.
Through that knowledge and wisdom, the mentor provides options and translation. He or she saves the mentee countless and valuable hours of work — and possibly frustration — by guiding the mentee through his or her translation and best practices with regard to the needs and goals of the mission. In doing so, the mentee is not left to his or her own devices to sort out the meaning of their development and responsibilities.
— CiO Leadership Coach (@CoachItOut) December 21, 2017
This exchange of knowledge and wisdom is similar to general leadership improvement and development, because it is refining what’s already there, including the approach to the environment. Yes, there will be technical needs and knowledge which need to be taken in, but all of that is for nothing if the person doesn’t know how to go about making the most of those resources.
And so that we don’t forgo that conveyance, transfer, or exchange of knowledge, value, and wisdom, keep these ideas in mind when it comes to mentoring:
Mentoring Should Always Be A Tool
Regardless of whether or not the strategy or development is at the organizational or individual level, mentoring should always be a tool of choice. Organizations should establish a culture of mentorship in their operations while individuals, if working on their own or for themselves, should proactively seek out mentors and mentees. I say individuals should seek out mentors and mentees because…
Mentoring Is Not Just For The Mentee
Traditionally, mentoring has been seen more as a one-sided benefit in which the mentee would benefit from their time with, and information and guidance shared by, their mentor.
But this isn’t and shouldn’t be the case anymore. Both sides gain in the mentoring arrangement. It is a partnership and relationship.
An underlying advantage to being the mentor, one that is there for the taking above the need to guide the mentee through the environment or specialization at hand, is learning about oneself, realizing what we hold of value and how we can build off of it to improve our position.
We can evolve and improve our knowledge and know-how as we pour our value into someone else. Pouring that knowledge and wisdom into someone else is a process of realization, organization, and explanation, which are all steps of refinement.
Mentees can provide mentors with new, fresh perspectives and ideas. They can introduce the mentor to an outsider’s perspective, possibly even being a devil’s advocate through their questions, helping to sharpen the mentor’s approach, work process, and, possibly, bring any blind spots into focus.
The mentor can gain just as much as the mentee. It is on them — and it is their own choice — to see, seek, and extract the value in the interaction.
Mentoring Can Cross Specializations
Although traditionally meant to provide guidance within a specialization or field, mentoring doesn’t need to be limited to the nature of the work the participants share in common. Areas for mentorship can be more general and broad, such as productivity, leadership skills, and professionalism, which are teachable or impressable, regardless of field. Two people from different backgrounds can exchange best practices in any of those areas and more.
Mentors can help mentees navigate their life and work, providing guidance on how to balance certain areas or aspects of the mentee’s experience, depending on the agreement at the start of the mentorship, which outlines the areas to be covered.
Mentoring Is More Available Than You Think
Mentoring isn’t only limited to those who are in your field or those in a formal arrangement or agreement. We can all mentor each other. There are bits of guidance, understanding, and assessment we can all share with each other.
We can cull mentorship advice from different people, across different areas and moments in our life. From various members of our family, friends, colleagues, and coworkers, there’s much we can take on.
We don’t need to wait to be in a mentorship in order to mentor someone or be mentored. Helping others to improve themselves can happen informally and on the fly.
It can happen on the fly because mentoring is similar to teaching in that it is sharing information about a best approach. And that can happen anywhere. Keep your eyes open.
Where are the mentorships in your life and work, both those where you learn from someone else and those where you provide to others?
Those who benefit take away a positive experience and additional knowledge and wisdom from the relationship. And that benefit is not limited to only one side or the other of the exchange.
Mentoring can break us down, meaning it has us self-assess ourselves, our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. And it can also build us up, leading us to learn new things we didn’t know about ourselves and/or the environment.
These relationships can sometimes exceed the benefit and advantage of formal education, because they provide the building, exchange, and refinement of real-world experiences. There is less need for frustrating trial-and-error and overexertion of time and resources when preemptive guidance can be provided between two people.
Whether we’re the mentor or the mentee, mentorships tighten up productivity and allow us to get to our best selves more quickly than if we had been on our own.