Posted by: brandextenders | September 12, 2012

Do You Have What it Takes to be a Good Mentor?

Janelle and the grandkids she adored

A dear friend passed away recently who also happened to be an icon in the promotional products world. Her name was Janelle Nevins and I don’t believe she ever met someone in this industry she wasn’t willing to help if needed, be they competitor or friend, women or man. I consider Janelle the ultimate mentor and after her inspiring memorial service I started thinking what that really means and what it takes to be a good mentor?

According to the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), 75% percent of executives point to mentoring as playing a key role in their careers; and 44% of CEO’s list mentoring programs as one of the three most effective strategies to enhance women’s advancement into senior management.

Our oldest son is studying criminal justice in college and also joined the Army Reserve a little over a year ago. He found a mentor within our town’s police department who also served in the military and has been able to guide and mentor our son in areas my wife and I have no expertise. Zach’s on a path to join the police department when he graduates and it most likely wouldn’t have happen without his mentor and now friend.

So what does it take to be a good mentor? Is it as simple as giving someone on-the-job training and then leaving them to sink or swim? I came up with a few traits I believe help make a good mentor and I know there are many others you can think of:

  1. The Heart of a Teacher: Even though you may never have had the desire to stand up in front of a group of students you may still have the heart of a teacher. If you enjoy sharing your expertise and knowledge with others and are truly interested in seeing others grow and succeed then you could be a good mentor.
  2. Is a Good Listener: Mentors need to listen more than they talk (good point for all of us) and not be judgmental. Ask to-the-point questions then be quiet and listen. Take notes if you need to, but take it all in before offering advice. Listening is probably the most important trait of a good mentor and if it’s all about you, you, you, then being a mentor is probably not a good fit.
  3. Is Honest: Mentees are usually young and they need honest feedback if they are to learn and grow. Good mentors don’t sugarcoat the truth so they don’t hurt their protégés feelings. Constructive feedback, both positive and negative, is what mentees need in a supportive and professional environment.
  4. Acts as a Role Model: Actions still speak louder than words and mentors need to be role models in their work place and in their life in general. This doesn’t mean you’re perfect, it simply means you work in an ethical way, treat others with respect and lead by example.
  5. Offers Encouragement: Fear and doubt are common for those just starting their careers and one of the mentor’s jobs is to always offer words of encouragement. This encouragement can come in the form of asking pointed questions, pushing to your mentee to take risks and being there when they fail or fall which is inevitable.

Forward thinking companies need to always be training their next generation of leaders, many of which may come from within. Either a formal or informal mentoring program is essential to training these future leaders to understand the organization and how things work within. The best mentors are well-connected in their industry and willing to introduce their mentee to their network and will never feel threatened as their protégés develop and become more experienced and skilled.

You don’t have to have a special degree or training to be a mentor, but you must have a desire to share your knowledge and skills with others. You also must be willing to devote the time it takes to build a trusting and personal relationship with those you mentor and, just like children, understand that one day they will move on to fill the roles you have trained them for.

Janelle’s example of mentoring and teaching will continue as those she mentored will do the same with others getting started in the business world. She set the bar very high and single-handedly raised the level of professionalism and creativity in our industry and for that we are all very grateful. Thank you Janelle and I suspect you’re up in heaven continuing to share your wisdom with others.

We’d love your thoughts on what it takes to be a good mentor and whether you were mentored early in your career.

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