February 14, 2012
By Clemson Turregano
If you think about the trajectory of your life and career, there likely are a few influential names and faces that come to mind — individuals who coached and mentored you to help you realize your full potential.
But there can be equally deep rewards in becoming a mentor yourself. In addition to the personal satisfaction that comes with giving back, mentoring can be good for your ongoing career. It can help you hone important skills and make a profound impact on your organization as you transfer critical knowledge and expertise to others, whether you remain in the military or have transitioned to a private-sector job.
If you’re a student of military history, you might have read about the path Dwight D. Eisenhower traveled to become a five-star general in the U.S. Army and 34th president of the U.S. Eisenhower’s career got off to a rocky start, but his relationship with Gen. Fox Conner made all the difference. Though Eisenhower did not have a high profile at the time, Conner recognized his natural ability and asked him to become his deputy in the Panama Canal Zone. Conner’s willingness to take Eisenhower on and to mentor his development changed the course of history.
Is there an Eisenhower within your sphere of influence? Are you willing to do what it takes to develop that individual’s natural talent? If so, experts at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) recommend you master the following skills to make the experience successful for both you and your mentee:
- Develop and manage the relationship. One of a mentor’s most critical responsibilities is to “own” the mentoring relationship.Get acquainted and build trust. Focus on what your mentee wants and needs. Determine how you can assist the individual in achieving important goals — especially those that are aligned with the strategic objectives of your organization. Take the pulse of the relationship at regular junctures and monitor progress.
- Survey. One of the strengths you bring to the table as a mentor is context. You’ve been there, done that, and easily can spot trends, opportunities, and roadblocks. You are in a unique position to share what you see as you survey professional horizons and take a broad look at your organization. Are there unique opportunities that can be leveraged? Are there challenges to be addressed? Does your mentee need help navigating unfamiliar territory? Share what you see as you scan the landscape.
- Teach. Effective mentors excel as teachers and transfer useful knowledge. Tell stories from your own personal experience. Recommend appropriate reading materials, seminars, conferences, and classes. Explore possible developmental assignments and special projects that can showcase what your mentee can do.
- Model. Most of us have learned a lot through the years by watching others. We see what works well and can be emulated. We’ve also learned which behaviors and attitudes we want to avoid. Provide your mentee with opportunities to observe you in action so you can model effective behaviors. Discuss the choices you made — what you did and why. You have the opportunity to provide a lasting impact on your mentee’s values, standards, style, attitudes, methods, and self-confidence.
- Guide and counsel. Become a confidant and sounding board. Help your mentee conquer self-doubt, manage conflict, and understand the emotions provoked by people and events. Based on your own experiences and what you’ve learned through the years, share wisdom and guidance. Offer options for dealing with tough relationships, work/life balance issues, organizational politics, and more.
- Motivate and inspire. Support, validate, and encourage. Avoid authoritative and directive behavior and focus instead on collaboration with your mentee. Help him or her understand how to make an impact. And above all, celebrate achievements and milestones.
CB Bowman, MBA, CMC, MCEC at Executive Leadership, LLC 908.509.1744 firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.exec-leadershipllc.com.