“Being a mentor is an act of self-improvement.”
In celebration of National Mentoring Month, I connected with two experts on the topic, Todd Moran, chief learning strategist at NovoEd and Chris Motley, CEO of Mentor Spaces, to talk about how a mentorship program can serve as a secret weapon to win the War for Talent.
This is the second part of my article on how organizations can leverage the power of internal mentorship and community-driven mentorship programs to attract, retain and develop young professionals—while also enriching the careers of participating mentors. Read the first part here.
What follows are three reasons that mentoring benefits not just the mentee, but also the mentor in significant ways.
1. Reverse mentoring is real—and it’s for everyone
Perhaps one of the overlooked benefits of an effective mentorship program is “reverse mentoring,” or the benefits it conveys to the participating mentors, who gain vital leadership skills while also learning new skills and experiences from their mentee.
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“Unfortunately, mentorship often has a stigma that it is a time-intensive, complicated process,” says Motley. “The reality is that the practice of mentorship starts with sharing lived experiences. If someone else can glean insights from your own experiences, then that provides them with valuable information to jumpstart their own careers.”
No one should be too senior to participate in mentoring—and when the C-suite makes mentoring a priority, there’s a positive trickle-down effect. “Engagement and interest in mentorship programs can increase when senior leaders participate in a mentoring relationship of their own,” says Moran. “Employees will be more encouraged to participate when they see senior leaders actively engaged as well.”
“Many believe that being a mentor is mainly a moral obligation,” says Motley. “However, what’s often unacknowledged is that being a mentor is an act of self-improvement. This type of improvement can create better leaders, allowing both the mentor and the recipient to gain ‘career currency’ from the conversation.”
2. Mentoring can expand your own horizons
While it might seem like common sense to match mentors and mentees who share similar roles or interests, it’s important to recognize that differences are what help us grow and create a more inclusive workforce, says Moran.
Part of the growth opportunity for mentors, therefore, is when they get matched with a mentee from a different team or department or with someone who comes from a contrasting background entirely. “That’s when a mentor might get the chance to develop new capabilities of their own,” says Moran. “Mentorship programs are a great place to start a diverse setting for employees to grow and learn alongside each other and make lasting connections that will outlive the official program.”
Motley agrees that participating in a mentorship program is a gift that keeps on giving for both the mentor and the mentee. It allows both parties opportunities to connect, skill up for the future, learn from others, advance their career and expand community relationships.
“There is value to having a mentor throughout your career,” he says. “Most see mentorship as hierarchical, but in truth, everyone needs mentorship. A senior executive may understand business strategy, but is less likely to understand TikTok, for example. That’s where mentorship can truly be a two-way street.”
3. Mentoring makes you a better person
Being a mentor can help you become a better person—someone who is actively contributing to an organization-wide culture of inclusion. And of course, inclusive work environments stand a much better chance of winning the loyalty of those who are employed there.
“Wide-scale application of mentorships cultivates a sense of endearment to the business, strengthening the individual bonds of participants and the broader connection to the organization,” says Moran. “Mentorships also provide valuable networking opportunities, furthering businesses’ efforts to boost diversity, equity and inclusion by connecting a wide range of employees with each other outside of their regular circles. This pushes both mentors and mentees outside of their comfort zone, while also giving them access to new opportunities and new people across the organization.”
Moran points to Google’s program for new hires as an example of how mentoring can help new employees get off to a strong start. Managers receive a notification the Sunday before their new hire starts with a reminder that their role is to help their mentee become more comfortable and build confidence in the organization.
Google found that new hires who were paired with a mentor became fully effective 25% faster than their peers who didn’t get a proper mentor.
“This confirms just how important having a mentor in any stage of the employee experience, especially the early stages, is critical to employee engagement and retention,” says Moran. Mentorship makes the organization better—and you, too.
Making mentorship work
Whether you’re implementing an organization-wide mentoring program or simply embracing a mentoring relationship individually, it’s best to set aside dedicated time to meet regularly so it doesn’t get pushed down the priority list. “Providing a framework and guide for mentors to set up frequent check-ins, establish goals for the program and a benchmark for how to track progress helps prevent this mentor-mentee relationship from being put on the back burner,” says Moran.
It’s also critical to set expectations that spell out exactly what both sides can expect. Mentors need to have a clear picture of their role in helping mentees achieve their goals and individual growth, while also ensuring they make the time investments to stay engaged in the program. “This starts by asking the mentee what he or she wants to get out of the program and setting goals, a timeline and expectations to make sure their goals are achieved and how both sides will be held accountable,” says Moran.
“Once these goals for the program are set, it’s up to the mentor to steer discussions and share wisdom and resources that help the mentee reach their goals.”
Mentoring can enhance not just your mentee’s success, but also your own. Make 2022 the year you invest seriously in mentoring—and watch it pay dividends throughout your career.