by Patty Azzarello
I remember when I first joined HP, I was notified by my manager that I was to attend a meeting with HR to discuss mentoring.
I went in thinking, âBoy, I could really use a mentor. I am new here, and this is a big company. A mentor could help me learn about other parts of the company and help me build my network.â
I was stunned in dis-belief when I realized that they were recruiting me to BE a mentor.
At this point in my career I had no idea what I had to offer. In fact, I was pretty nervous. âIâm going to get found outâ¦. My mentee is going to report me as being a useless mentorâ.
I tried to humble my way out of this responsibility, because I was afraid to fail, and because I wasnât sure I had time to be a mentor. (Interesting to note how I thought I had time to work with a mentor, but not the other way aroundâ¦)
I failed to avoid it!
I left that meeting as an official mentor awaiting an assignment of my first mentee. I was given a brief pamphlet about mentoring, which I donât recall having learned anything from, and I was off to the races.
Two main reasons people donât mentor
1) They donât feel like they have something to offer.
2) They donât think they have enough time.
Let me talk about both of these.
1. You DO have something to offer
What I learned from my mentees surprised me. They would come and talk to me about what was happening in their jobs, and I would share stories about similar things that I did. (I canât emphasize enough that it did not feel like I was sharing anything of value.)
I was amazed when they would come back and say, âThank you so much, I did what you said and it worked wonderfully!â When they repeated back to me what they had learned and what they had done, I was staggered to find out that those stories had been so useful.
The reason this happens makes sense once you think about it.
The things you already know seem obvious to YOU.
So you donât think they are valuable or impressive. They donât seem fascinating or important â precisely because you already know them!
But the things you know are indeed fascinating and important to others â all the people who donât know what you know!
And you donât have to know how to be a mentor, you can just start.
No matter where you are in your career you can be a mentor to someone.
There is someone who can benefit from what you know. And they will do better from having the encouragement of someone who thinks them worthy of investing in.
I have been a mentor ever since. I have found it to be a huge source of learning and inspiration. I always learn stuff from the people I mentor.
2. You have enough time
When I was at my busiest as an executive, I would relish my mentoring appointments.
It was like having a vacation in my schedule for an hour. Every other hour I was on the hook to solve problems, negotiate, mediate, make difficult decisions, sell something, invent somethingâ¦ When I had a mentoring appointment, it was a lovely break from my own job. I was not going to end that meeting with bigger problems or more to do.
But the more important part is that you feel better about your job when you help someone else. You feel more in control. You feel less overwhelmed.
If you feel like you have no time, when you give a little time to help someone else, you realize that you do have time. It actually makes you feel less overwhelmed if you give time to help someone else.
How to become a mentor
If you are mentoring today, bravo, and thank you from the world at large.
If you are not, volunteer.
Here are some ideas:
1. If you have relationships with your managerâs peers, go to them and say, âI am not currently mentoring anyone but would like to. Is there someone in your organization who would benefit?â By the way this does not hurt your credibility with your managerâs peers! But thatâs not the primary reason to do it.
2. Make the offer to someone in HR. Ask if there are any high performers one or two levels down that would benefit.
3. Make the offer to your neighbors. Perhaps they have children entering the workforce.
4. Strike a deal with your peers to each mentor someone in the othersâ organization. Youâll also get the benefit of getting smarter about the business. Youâll get a steady stream of information from another part of the business, from another level, which you donât normally interact with. This is gold.
There is really no downside.
Be a mentor!
Join me for a Special Interview with Tim Sanders
I moved this blog topic up to align with my upcoming interview with Tim Sanders about his new book Today We are Rich.
Of the many valuable lessons in this book — the concept that having something to give makes you rich– is a common thread, whether it is time, money, gratitude, help, positivity, or just spending the energy to move something forward.
Please join us for an inspiring conversation on Wednesday April 20 at 9am Pacific Time.
You can register here.
You can also download Timâs free eBook ahead of time:
(by the way, for every click to download, Tim sends a donation to the Smyles foundation to educate at-risk children)
What have you learned as a mentor?
Have you been a mentor? What did you think of the experience? Share your stories in the comment box below!
Patty Azzarello is an executive, author, speaker and CEO-advior. She works with executives where leadership and business challenges meet. Patty has held leadership roles in General Management, Marketing, Software Product Development and Sales, and has been successful in running large and small businesses. She writes at Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. You’ll find her on Twitter as @PattyAzzarello. Also, check out her new book Rise…
Successful-Blog is proud affiliate of