- The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide,” while Dictionary.com defines a mentor as “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.”
- My favorite definition for mentoring comes from Eric Parsloe, the Director of The Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring. He defines mentoring as “to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.”
- A 2010 HBR article discusses a research that found, workers want managers who “will give straight feedback.” Therefore, the critical gap that companies need to bridge is “improving your firm’s ability to give honest, timely, and useful coaching.”
- A Sun Microsystems study revealed that both mentors and mentees were approximately 20% more likely to get a raise than people who did not participate in their mentoring program. The study also found that employees who received mentoring were promoted FIVE times more often than people who didn’t have mentors, and mentors were SIX times more likely to have been promoted to a bigger job (Forbes, 2011).
Dr. Jul’s Insights:
These days, I’ve been going through some challenges where I’ve had to rely heavily on my mentors. I am thankful to have had and continue to have wonderful mentors in my life. We’ve learned from each other, shared laughter, and in some instances, built a lifelong friendship. I cherish the lessons they have taught me. Their support and guidance have been invaluable for my personal and professional development. They have shown me that all great mentors possess the following qualities:
Quality #1: They teach with heart. Great mentors are great teachers. Aside from being knowledgeable, they teach with passion. They also bring patience and understanding. I was 21 when I took on a role as an Education Consultant. I was young and inexperienced, which was obvious to my clients. I remember being shredded by a few of them after one of my earlier teaching sessions. I sat in the classroom afterward with tears trickling down my face. I remember my mentor walking in. He smiled and told me to dry off my tears. His exact words were, “Our technology solution is complex. You will learn it and be successful at teaching it. In the meantime, be confident and ask lots of questions. Remember, you’ll always know more about the product than your clients, and I’m here to help.” I will forever remember his encouraging words. With his support, I became an expert on the product and was promoted twice during the four years I was with the company.
Quality #2: They are lifelong learners. Great mentors never stop developing themselves. I’ve learned that they are continuously reading and learning. I love asking my mentors about their current reading list. They will share with you some of the best books. Whenever I run into problems, my mentors are always able to direct me to the “right book.” Great mentors also learn from those around them, including their mentees. They’re open about sharing their own challenges and experiences. They’ve shown me that life isn’t a destination but a journey, and individuals who focus on growth will manage to achieve their life goals.
Quality #3: They care about your success. The best mentors I’ve had are outstanding champions. They bring out the best in you and inspire you to dream big. They don’t try to mold you to be like them but help you become the strong, confident, and successful person that they know you can be. I’ve had mentors who saw potential in me that I didn’t even see in myself like the professor who worked nonstop with me on a research project that led to an A-level journal publication during my second year in the PhD program. He didn’t choose research topics for me based on his interests but allowed me to pick ones that excited me. He also introduced me to his network and provided me with opportunities to learn from some of the best researchers in the field. Great mentors are focused on celebrating YOUR success!
Quality #4: They will give you real feedback. We all have a hard time receiving criticisms, even when they’re meant to be constructive. When you’ve poured heart and soul into your work, it’s difficult to learn that what you’ve delivered is subpar. A great mentor will not sugarcoat things. They will deliver honest feedback in a gentle manner because they know that you will only improve by knowing the truth. A mentor who cannot give genuine feedback isn’t someone who will be able to help you reach your maximum potential.
- Find yourself an impactful mentor. Now that I’ve shared with you the qualities of a great mentor, go out and find yourself one. Having impactful mentors in your life will enable you to overcome obstacles and elevate yourself to a new level. A great mentor will help you achieve both personal and professional growth.
- Become a mentor yourself. Pay it forward! There are so many different mentorship programs out there. Being a mentor is especially rewarding. You will have the opportunity to inspire a mentee while learning from this individual at the same time. Going through the experience will enrich your life and help you become a better teacher and leader.
- Be authentic, build trust, and teach with heart. Whether you are the mentor or the mentee in a mentoring relationship, we all have valuable knowledge to impart and the ability to teach with passion. A great mentoring relationship requires authenticity and trust. Even if those skills do not come naturally to you, cultivate them. It’s true that practice makes perfect!