Why Should I Be a Mentor?

Being a mentor will cost you something: time, effort, energy. Busy leaders have limited capacity and many things that make demands on that capacity. So, why would you even consider being a mentor?

Some become a mentor because they see the long range impact of developing the next generation of leaders. Others choose to mentor because they find the work fulfilling to draw out the potential in others. On the other hand, who would choose to be a mentor as a personal leadership development strategy? Here’s the thing, if you become a mentor you will grow. You will become a better leader.

Regardless of our titles or years of experience, we can learn from each other. Through mentoring and by being open to learn we can reach our ultimate potential. ~Lily Benjamin

When it comes to leading, we can all find room to grow. And according to research that would be an investment worth making.

DDI’s Frontline Leader Project collected data from over 1,000 managers, senior leaders and individual contributors. Their efforts to uncover the anxieties, frustrations and rewarding moments of leading revealed that this job is HARD! 

We have heard that people leave managers not companies, but over 57% left because of a manager and 14% of those did it more than once. Another 32% have considered it. 

~DDI Frontline Leader Project

In addition to this unhappy relationship between managers and employees, the study revealed that the hardest part of leading is the difficult conversations, coaching and engaging teams. It’s the soft side of leadership that trips us up nearly every time.

That’s where mentoring comes in. It’s an opportunity to learn some of the soft skills leaders need to create an environment where they can truly lead. Here is a few things being a mentor can teach you about leading:

  1. Learn how to ask better questions. Develop the skill of asking questions to guide others toward understanding the problem rather than overtly directing their efforts
  2. Improve how you facilitate a conversation.  Uncover another person’s thoughts, ideas and alternatives instead of offering quick advice or specific solutions to a problem.
  3. Look at what you do from another angle. Sometimes things come so easy we don’t see the steps we took to make things happen. As a mentor asks questions to learn, leaders must break down the process into “bite size” pieces. And in so doing you can see ways to improve what you do and how you do it.
  4. Utilize teaching strategies. Move beyond talking and sharing information and instruction, try shadowing, shared projects, giving them special projects, etc.
  5. Do it in reverse. Gain a fresh perspective from a junior employee as they offer insight and ways of looking at situations that offer the mentor an opportunity to experience mentoring in reverse.

Stop the turnover. Reduce the frustration and anxiety of leading. Try mentoring as an option to give AND grow.

Next Steps:

  1. Look at your leadership development goals for 2021. How might mentoring be a fit as a leadership development strategy for you? What steps can you take to make mentoring a priority when it comes to growing as a leader?
  2. Check out our latest episode on the Side By Side Podcast about how you can learn more adaptability and flexibility from those affected by disability.
  3. Comment below with more ideas on how serving as a mentor can help leaders grow.

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Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center for Coaching Excellence.

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