April 17, 2013

The Importance of Mentors

I was chatting with a friend recently and we got on the topic of mentors. I have been extremely fortunate to have had several outstanding ones in my career. She lamented she couldn't name one in her life. Then she asked why these people had so profoundly helped me which got me thinking about the attributes of a great mentor.

Teacher

There must be trust. Your mentor has to care about you and your success not simply put their theories and goals on you. My most influential mentor was my boss Stewart. In just five years, I learned more about leadership and myself than I could have in twenty. He was a student of human behavior and not only understood we were different but accepted and embraced it.

He said leadership was 10% about the work and 90% about life, relationships, and people. It's important to do good work but without human connection, company culture won't be strong and your business will struggle. Stewart knew this and created it in our organization. And he's still doing it today.

Student

Stew understood human systems, team dynamics, and the importance of pushing people to be their best. His biggest gift as my mentor was to find those moments to explain how he did what he did and allow me space to find my own style and process. Oh, and if  you know him, don't tell him I wrote this, he isn't the look-at-me type.

I connected with his ability to set the course but also explain how he arrived at the plan and how I could find my own way to lead my team, and years later, even bigger teams. He gave me another view of how to find my own way. I didn't realize at the time, but he gave me the foundation for my work today.

Graduate

Mentors are priceless yet the relationship is often not evident at first. You don't see "mentor" on an org chart or job board. It happens when it happens and can't be forced. But as the mentor relationship develops, it will garner immeasurable results.

If you've been fortunate to be a mentor, are one now, or become one in the future, cherish the opportunity to help someone find their way.

That’s leadership!  
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Kneale Mann | Leadership and Culture Strategist, Writer, Speaker, Executive Coach engaging leaders to build successful talent and profitable business.

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