The Importance of Being a Mentor

Recently, I talked about the importance of coaching employees to help them become better. The other side of that same coin is the idea of mentoring.

Mentoring is when you influence and guide someone who is less experienced and often younger than you are. In a professional setting, a mentor is someone who influences the personal and professional growth of a mentee.

In other words, the Director of Marketing at a corporation might serve as a mentor to the new Marketing Coordinator who is in her first job right out of college. The Vice President could be a mentor to a new operations manager. The veteran production manager could provide wisdom to the new floor manager. And so on.

How Does Being a Mentor Benefit You?

It's important that you mentor younger and newer employees who might benefit from your experience and wisdom.Why should executives be mentors? How do you benefit from being a mentor?

For one thing, not everything has to benefit you. If nothing else, you’re paying forward the mentorship and guidance you received along the way during your career. (And if you think you got to where you are without any help or guidance, you’re fooling yourself.)

By mentoring others, you’re also helping your company grow. When help your staff to improve, they bring those new skills and knowledge to bear on their work, which can only help your company to grow and improve. So consider mentoring an investment in the company’s future.

You also benefit by learning from the person you’re mentoring. If you’re sincere in your mentoring efforts, your mentee will actually teach you something. Particularly if they are from a younger generation. Being around that person will help you understand how younger people think, where their priorities are, and how they feel about certain issues.

Remember, just because they’re younger and do things differently doesn’t mean they’re doing things wrong. It just means they have a different way of seeing the world, and that way of thinking is going to be leading your companies and your industries in about 30 years.

A great example today is trying to mentor young Millennials and Generation Z. Gen Z was born between 1997 and 2012, while Millennials were born between 1977 and 1995. So anyone who is under 30 and working in your company has a completely different mindset and worldview than you.

You can either fight and complain about them and how “nobody does things like we used to.” Or you can learn about the things they think are important, such as work-life balance, doing work that has meaning, and being a part of something that makes a positive contribution to the world.

(Hint: Your younger customers feel this same way, even in the B2B world. So learn from your young employees about how to reach your young customers.)

How Do You Find Someone to Mentor?

Just like you can tell if someone is motivated to do well (see last week’s blog article), you can also find the people who are interested in being mentored.

It’s not just in how they approach you, but whether they came to you or waited for you to come to them. If you go to someone and ask to mentor them, there’s a chance they’re not interested. If that’s the case, don’t waste your time. You’ll never know what’s in someone’s head unless they tell you.

Normally, people will identify themselves as needing a mentor, but sometimes they’ll just show up. They’re the people who will ask a lot of questions, seek your advice, bounce ideas off of you, or just want to share their experiences with you.

You’ll think, “That’s an inquiring mind. Let’s see where it goes.” And maybe you’ll meet with the person on a regular basis, or maybe you’ll only talk occasionally. Or maybe they’ll be bold and say, “Could you be my mentor? Could we meet on a regular basis?”

When they do, if you have the time and believe in the other person, then you should say yes. You’ll both get something out of it. But more importantly, you’ll be planting the seeds of your knowledge and wisdom, knowing that it will live on past you, into future generations.

And that may be the best reason of all to do it.

I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business, including pivoting within their industry. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Photo credit: styles66 (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

Author: David Marshall
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.