I've been fortunate to have had a couple of excellent mentors in my career and been even more fortunate to be a mentor. It's a special relationship that can't be mandated by any company initiative. It just happens over time and in many important patient steps and it's vastly different than training or taking a course.
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.
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.
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.
Enjoy the journey!