Do you really need a mentor? I think we all do… at different times in our lives and perhaps for different reasons – personal or professional. In this article, I am going to focus on the importance of a mentor for your professional development. That doesn’t mean that their role is limited to your professional life because our personal and professional lives are deeply intertwined. Issues like low self-esteem and lack of confidence, fear of speaking in groups, or the inability to be assertive will have an impact on your professional development.
Just to be clear, a mentor is not a counsellor or therapist. The mentoring relationship is one of guidance, motivation, and accountability between two people who know each other. Ideally the mentor should be more experienced and knowledgeable; therefore, being in a position to advise and be a role model for the mentee.
So, what are the real benefits of a mentoring relationship?
- In my experience, a good mentoring relationship is not only motivational, but it causes the mentee (you) to be accountable. The entire point of entering a mentoring relationship is for professional development and growth. It involves regular meetings with your mentor, discussions on your plans and career goals and the creation of specific, realistic and measurable steps to achieve those goals. Through this process you enter into a contract with your mentor (albeit informal) that you will embark on the journey you have both worked out together, to get to where you want to be. You are no longer alone in this process.
Not only does this create a sense of accountability and responsibility, but it can and should be motivational. It should give the mentee a sense of real and valuable purpose.
The process involves discussing your long-term professional plans with your mentor, setting achievable goals within a specified time frame and regularly updating your mentor on where you are towards achieving them. It’s important to understand that these are YOUR goals, set by you, not your mentor. Your mentor’s role is to be supportive and perhaps provide some guidance and advice on the steps you could take to achieve your goals. Set a regular weekly or monthly time to ‘check in’ with your mentor for updates on your progress or report on any achievements you may have had. And be honest and transparent with yourself and your mentor. Remember, this relationship is for YOU.
- Sometimes, we don’t see ourselves clearly. We believe certain things about ourselves e.g. I am not good at presentations. This may just be a narrow assessment of yourself. A mentor looks at you from a different perspective and is likely to observe aspects of the you that you as the mentee cannot see for yourself – both positive and negative. A good mentor will not be afraid to point out your ‘blind spots,’ share your strengths and discuss your personal development and leadership styles to help you take the next steps towards your professional goals.
- In a successful mentoring relationship, it’s important for the mentor to ask the tough questions. Sometimes, these may be uncomfortable to answer, but they are important. These are questions that explore your current situation and discuss your ideal situation to help you anticipate changes, seize opportunities and move your career in the direction you want.
As a leadership coach, I have found that most successful leaders have had mentors, sometimes more than one, to guide, support, motivate and inspire them to achieving their ‘best self’ both in their personal and professional realms.
It’s not always easy to find a mentor. It has to be someone you respect, trust and feel a connection with. In these situations, sometimes an external, objective voice can take the place of a mentor… in the form of a leadership coach like myself. If you think that I might be able to help, book an Orientation Call today to find out if my approach is something that could work for you.
One of the services you might be interested in is our Big Picture Planning Service which is a 3-hour insightful walking and table-top session, where we discuss your current position, where you want to be in the next few years and what steps you need to take to get there.