Do. Or Do Not. There Is No Try.

Maybe the most famous example of mentoring in the movies is Yoda's relationship with Luke Skywalker. There is even a Top 10 list for wisdom Yoda imparts to the young Jedi. Your mentoring doesn't have to take place in the Dagobah (but a lot of IT people probably wish it could.)

Many of us acquire the skills necessary to perform the job. Having a mentor will give you the wisdom that will help you perform the job better. Being a mentor will make your job easier as those you teach will perform the job better.

I needed a mentor when I took over my first management job at the ripe, old age of 28. Surely now that I had been promoted, everyone else would recognize how brilliant I was and follow every single order I gave. I was shocked and dismayed when those reporting to me did not work as hard as I did, and did not carry out my orders and embrace my wisdom.

An older man in the department (one had tried management and didn't like it) asked me how the "Dictator School of Management" was working out for me. (My Dr. Phil Moment.) He became my first mentor. He noted that no one likes to be ordered. I would have more success, he said, if I motivated and managed. He taught me about finesse. And he taught me how to do something about those who weren't going to follow no matter what I did.

He was a prime example that mentors can come from anywhere – above, below or on the same level. All you need to be a mentor is some wisdom to impart and someone willing to listen.

I have been involved with the Youth Mentoring Connection through the Los Angeles Unified School District. This program supports high school students and makes a difference. Ninety-six percent of the students involved with the Mentoring Connection graduate from high school. Without that connection, the graduation rate is less than 50 percent.

Why? Because when you are mentored, there's a subtle message that you matter. You're important. This is true in the workplace. When a person cares enough to give you helpful advice, it means they want you to succeed. That can make the difference.

A few other points about mentoring:

  • Mentoring helps both the mentor and the mentee. Teaching someone can be as helpful as learning. It is life-changing when you help someone else succeed.
  • If you're never been sought as a mentor, you're doing something wrong.
  • Mentoring does not have to take place in a formalized setting with goal-setting and such. It can be as informal as "that person I talked to when I'm getting coffee."
  • Mentoring goes on and on. (Do you ever really stop listening to your parents?) Although he is long retired, I still get together with my first mentor and he still is teaching me lessons.
  • Mentors are all around. My husband I are in the same industry and he has a lot of helpful advice … some of which I listen to.
  • Your need for mentors changes over time. New managers need one type of mentor. A manager leading major change in an organization needs another kind of mentor.
  • You can be a mentor and be mentored at the same time. Teaching and learning are merely different sides of the coin.
  • You can have multiple mentors at one time and take good ideas from each.

April 16, 2015 | Pat Bramhall