When it comes to career development and advancement, the topic of mentorship comes up frequently.
Mentorship is a powerful tool to use when individuals want to seek direct input and gain insights from someone that they respect, admire and want to learn from. A mentor relationship is also a powerful tool for the mentor themselves as it is reflective way to be reminded of the accomplishments that they’ve achieved as a leader and inspiration to others. It’s as simple as the push/pull effect – a beautiful, strategic approach to rising up and bringing others along with you on the ride.
Mentorship can show up in many formats too – for example, formal mentoring, informal mentoring and peer mentoring.
Formal mentoring is a structured relationship where the mentee asks the mentor, typically someone more senior to them, to actively support them for a period of time or on a specific topic of interest or concern. The mentee is primarily responsible for scheduling the interactions, driving the discussion and following up with specific action items. The mentor is responsible for showing up, listening, providing thought-provoking questions as well as experience that the mentee could consider along their journey. The mentor is there as a support tool – not a director – and the mentee should look at their insights as considerations to influence their future action (or inaction).
Informal mentoring is similar, but different. Similar in the roles that the mentee and mentor play, but different in that it’s not designed necessarily to be a set structure, time period or topic. The relationship flows as the mentee needs the support and is more casual in nature. A mentee may even have multiple informal mentors that she goes to based on topic or need too. One of the many benefits of an informal mentoring relationship is that it reduces the amount of investment that the mentor may be feeling from a formalized offering, but the downside is that the mentor may not always be available when needed for ongoing discussions.
Finally, peer mentoring utilizes the same approach where one individual is seeking support or knowledge, but they are seeking it from peers and often in groups. Peer mentoring is a great way to lean on your “equals” to help you view a situation through a different lens or find a solution for a given challenge. It also reduces the potential pressure or anxiety around seeking senior leadership support. On the flip, it reduces the opportunity to learn from someone who has “been there, done that” before too.
Whichever type of mentoring relationship makes sense given individual needs, I would strongly encourage everyone to consider seeking support and input from others around you (pushing) – and being available to offer support and encouragement to those around you (pulling). It is our duty – especially as women – to inspire, build up, lift up, open doors, and encourage the growth of those around us.
There are also significant benefits to a mentoring relationship, regardless of which type or which role you serve.
For the Mentor
It allows you to "give back" and grow great talent around you – bringing future leaders along with you
It builds your active listening, coaching and interpersonal relationship skills
It encourages you to impart your wisdom and experiences, reminding you of your great successes and worth
It helps reenergize your career, leadership potential and leads to greater personal satisfaction too
For the Mentee
It increases your self-confidence and provides a greater sense of control in navigating your career
It provides great learning opportunities in developing your voice as well as in accepting feedback and growth potential suggestions
It improves your interpersonal relationship skills as well as potentially your visibility in the organization, or at minimum provides you with an important networking contact (depending on whether the mentor is an internal or external resource)
And finally, it helps you to better explore and assess cultural and political environments corporately which are critical for success
So regardless of whether you need to push for the support – or you are able to pull others along with your great support – mentoring is a powerful tool to be utilized throughout our careers, whether we are just starting out or on our way to retirement. We ALL have something powerful to offer – our insights, experiences, encouragement and wisdom – so let’s come together as a powerful community to ensure that everyone’s career experience is as optimal and fulfilling as it can be.
This post is inspired in part by Anna M Valencia - a WeInspireWe Inspiring Interview.