On December 28, 2016, President Obama declared January 2017 National Mentoring Month. In his presidential proclamation he stated, “This month, we reflect on the transformative role mentorship can play and acknowledge the many ways that mentors have helped our next generation of leaders and innovators grow.” Mentoring often begins with students or young adults but leadership-level mentoring plays a vital role in personal growth and business development.
When it comes to mentoring leaders, a question that is often asked is “what does a mentor actually do?” Having mentored several women leaders over the years, here’s how I’d answer:
- A mentor helps outline goals and objectives for the mentoring relationship and holds the leader accountable to accomplish or modify them as needed.
- A mentor serves as a sounding board to vet ideas and strategies, particularly those that are early in their conception or seemingly counter to one’s current purpose and direction.
- A mentor provides a valuable, unbiased, outside perspective that a leader cannot often obtain from those inside their organization.
- A mentor shares insights and wisdom gained from their own experience and can indentifiy potential pitfalls and unanticipated consequences of actions being considered.
- A mentor helps boost confidence and stave off discouragement when a leader encounters challenges or adversity.
- A mentor shares outside contacts and connections that may further the objectives of the leader they are mentoring, particularly in areas where they lack the expertise sought.
Another question that comes up is, “why should I be a mentor?” In my experience as a mentor I have:
- Reaped as much benefit from the mentoring relationship as those whom I’ve mentored.
- Learned things about other companies, industries and roles that I would not otherwise have been exposed to.
- Had the opportunity to share insights and wisdom with someone who benefitted in ways I couldn’t begin to imagine.
- Learned things about myself, my values and perspectives as I articulated them with another leader.
- Earned confidants and friends.
Whether you are seeking a mentor or seeking to mentor someone, mentoring is an invaluable experience that, when done well, has a lifelong positive impact on both parties involved.