Business leaders often talk about the mentors who have contributed to their career development. To quote Richard Branson: “No matter who you are, where you’ve come from, or what you have achieved, a good mentor is an invaluable asset in business1.”
There are many definitions of mentoring, but the one I like is: “An employee training system under which a senior or more experienced individual, is assigned to act as an advisor, counsellor, or guide to a junior or trainee. The mentor is responsible for providing support to, and feedback on, the individual in his or her charge2.”
Being a mentor carries with it both commitment and responsibility. Success requires a significant investment from both parties, and each must be willing to participate actively in the relationship. These relationships are based upon trust, confidentiality and honest, open communication.
To make sure the relationship is meaningful, and not just a chat over a cup of coffee, both mentor and mentee are advised to sign an agreement. This reminds both parties of the importance of their mutual commitment.
During my career, I’ve benefited from the guidance of a number of mentors. Sometimes, years passed during which I had no contact with these great people, but when I needed their counsel, they were all humble enough to take my call or answer my email.
Having a mentoring program in an organisation sends powerful messages to the people working there. It says “we care about you, we are prepared to invest in you, we value you and we think you are an important asset”.
Knowing you are valued, trusted and respected results in increased job satisfaction and reduced staff turnover for the organisation. It fosters teams who take ownership of their organisation and help build the next generation of leaders.
So, if you are asked to mentor a colleague, see it as a privilege. Take it seriously and use it as an opportunity to give something back to a colleague or your organisation.
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