Mentoring is an opportunity
Use the wisdom of experience to guide you
Few things in life are more satisfying than knowing you have helped another person become a better version of themself. It speaks to the importance and richness of both mentoring and being mentored. It’s a teacher-learner relationship, but it is important to note that we must all be learning at all times.
To quote one of my favorite mentors, “I’ve made every mistake in the world, why should you have to make them all too?”
Mentoring is using the wisdom of our experience, both successes and failures (especially failures), to guide those who are on their journey — and who among us isn’t on a journey?
Sometimes you have official mentors with whom you schedule time. But in my world, everyone you come into contact with is a mentor. Sometimes all you have to do is listen and ask. Each person has a set of different experiences, and all of them are learning opportunities.
In fact, mentoring is a spectrum of opportunities. Early in my career, I was told that it’s a good thing to have more than one mentor at any given time. In fact, a “board of directors” of mentors was described. At that time, I was so busy that the concept seemed ludicrous, but it has stuck with me, and I have found it to be true.
When I think through the mentors in my life, they include my junior high gym teacher and coach as a confidence mentor at a pivotal time of my life. I have had business mentors, physician mentors, philosophic and spiritual mentors, financial mentors, diversity mentors and accidental mentors. I consider each member of our company’s Board of Directors to be a mentor to me, each in a slightly different way.
One of my mentors never met with me. From a distance, I studied his style of industry leadership, noting what he did well. From these encounters I learned and practiced emulating his style and his values. Practice is a good exercise.
What makes a good mentor? It depends on what you are seeking. In my experience, mentors are thoughtful and caring, not in a hurry or unfocused. They bring out the best in us. That’s what great mentors do. They make us think and question what we stand for and what our purpose is. It’s a journey to get there, but a highly rewarding journey.
And what’s your role as a learner? Good mentees take the initiative to set up meetings or calls. You must listen well and reflect back to the mentor what they have learned or how they have applied that learning, hopefully with a positive outcome. It is also your role to share failures and frustrations. In a mentor-mentee relationship, confidentiality is of the utmost importance. While the mentor may seem to be the “giver,” it’s important that the mentee give as well, whether through gratitude, learning or offering the mentor something of value.
Being a mentor involves intentionality and a “paying it forward” mentality, an attitude to encourage in the mentee as well, as the mentee will give a hand up to those that come next.
I have found mentoring to be one of the most rewarding opportunities in my life, whether it’s within a family, in a family business or in nearly any other role. Like it or not, we all serve as mentors for our children and NextGens. It’s important that we do it well.
Anne Eiting Klamar is board chair at Midmark Corp.