Just as it’s important to find someone you respect to mentor you, it also important to mentor others. You don’t have to be in a formal leadership position or have years and years of experience to mentor someone else. It’s never too early to become a mentor. We all have something to give, and the sooner you begin giving the better. If you’re in college, you can mentor high school students. If you’re a recent graduate, you can mentor others still in school.
I take great joy in mentoring other people. I love it when I can use my experience to help accelerate the growth of someone else. It takes the sting out of some of the negative consequences I’ve experienced because of poor judgment. I think to myself, “At least he or she won’t have to go through that.”
In his great book Love is the Killer App, Tim Sanders tells the story of how he turned one of the people who worked for him from a “mad dog” into a “lovecat.” The advice is simple: “Offer your wisdom freely…And always be human.”
Tim is right on. Mentoring is a great way to become a lovecat by serving others. The more you serve others, the more confidence – and success – will come your way. Besides that, you’ll grow by mentoring. As you reflect on your life experiences and distill them into some nuggets that you can share with others your knowledge will become wisdom. In addition to being better able to help others learn and grow, you will be better able to take advantage of what you know. You never learn something so completely as when you teach it to another person.
Any mentoring relationship needs to focus on the person being mentored. While mentoring someone will most often a satisfying experience for you, remember that it is not about you – it’s about the other person. Accept him or her for who he or she is. Help him or her proceed at his or her own place. The best mentoring relationships are guided by the person being mentored.
Mentoring should be a positive experience for both of you. That means that you need to avoid treating a person you are mentoring as incompetent or incapable. Rather, think of him or her as someone lacking in experience and who needs guidance. Don’t criticize. Help the other person think through the consequences of his or her behavior and to identify more positive ways of handling difficult or troubling situations.
Hold the person you are mentoring responsible for his or her success. Give him or her small assignments. Don’t let him or her off the hook if he or she fails to complete them. Be willing to give of yourself and your time, but make sure the other person is doing so too.
Realize that the relationship will end. If you’ve done a good job, the person you are mentoring will need to move on at some point. It’s all part of the cycle. It can be hard to let go, but feel good about seeing someone move on to bigger and better things – and another mentor.
I’ve created an acronym to define what it takes to become a good mentor. A good mentor…
M Motivates you to accomplish more than you think you can.
E Expects the best of you.
N Never gives up on you or lets you give up on yourself.
T Tells you the truth, even when it hurts.
O Occasionally kicks your butt.
R Really cares about you and your success.
Look for people with these qualities when you are searching for a mentor. Embody them yourself when you are mentoring others.