Mentoring is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself and your organization. Having been the beneficiary of an outstanding mentor, I understand and value the impact a professional mentor can have on a career. Seventeen years ago, I began my career as a chamber of commerce executive. I was focused on building a strong organization and establishing myself as a leader in the community. Two years into my demanding journey, an incredible human being entered my life… my mentor. I would not be where I am today had it not been for the encouragement, guidance, and thought-provoking conversations that she has given me. She has never instructed me “what to think or do,” but rather “how to think.” Steven Spielberg said, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves,” and that is exactly what she has done for me.
I was lucky in that I did not have to seek out a mentor. Rather, she came into my life and grew into being a mentor. I have, however, included a few items to consider along your mentoring pursuit. The most important aspect is to find someone who is a natural fit. You probably know a lot of successful people, but not all of them are qualified to serve as a mentor. You want to find someone to challenge you, someone that will provide honest and open dialogue, someone to offer constructive advice and criticism and most importantly, someone who is genuinely interested in your success. A mentor is a trusted advisor who you can feel comfortable sharing your challenges and weaknesses. An effective mentor pushes you to set goals, then pushes you beyond your established goals to reach even further.
I recently asked my mentor, what I could ever do to thank her for all the time she has invested in “growing” me? “The only reward I want or need is to see you reach successes and milestones in your career and personal life. The greatest thing you can give back to any mentor is success. Work hard, set a positive example and succeed, and then turn around to help pull someone else up and offer your mentoring to them.” I hope one day to serve as a mentor and have the same powerful impact she has had on my life.
As the Super Bowl is upon us, I will conclude with a quote from Super Bowl winning coach, Tony Dungy, “Whether it’s in your business, your school, your community, or your family, if you want to make a difference in the lives of the people you lead, you must be willing to walk alongside them, to lift and encourage them, to share moments of understanding with them, and to spend time with them, not just shout down at them from on high. Mentors build mentors. Leaders build leaders.”