Over the years I’ve had many jobs, colleagues and bosses. I’ve worked with people who taught me job-related information, supervisors who oversaw my work and advisors who pointed me in a certain direction. Over the years, however, I’ve had very few mentors; I’ve had even fewer great mentors. In fact, I’ve had only one life-changing mentor. It is my goal to become a life-changing mentor.
Life-changing mentoring is exactly what it implies—it is a deeper level of mentoring that, when done right, can truly change lives. I am personally trying to learn the art of being a great mentor and realize I have far to go along this journey. Life-altering mentoring goes beyond teaching employees how to just do their jobs. It teaches mentees how to change their way of being in the world and to subsequently change how others are in the world as well. Life-changing mentors create a ripple effect of change throughout entire companies, communities and sometimes even the world.
Below is a list of tips for becoming a life-altering mentor. This list has been compiled largely as a result of my personal experiences over the years. I’m sure there are many things missing, however these are the core principles I see.
1. Be generous with your time. Too many mentors behave as though their time is so much more important than others’. This is a mistake. Take the time to teach. Encourage your mentees to ask questions and do NOT respond by saying, “I have just a minute, so make it fast” whenever they ask for help. Be generous with your time.
2. Be ultra-patient and forgiving. My colleague Dawn is teaching me the importance of this tip as we walk through a new business adventure together. My desire to push through some things at warp speed can come across as impatient and controlling; obviously not fun to be around. When you have more experience than someone else in a certain area, you need to be aware of how you’re responding to their questions, mistakes, etc.—through their eyes. On any given day or project, the tables could be turned and they will know more than you in some area. Mentor others as you would like them to mentor you. Breathe and remember to BE PATIENT.
3. Listen with a new ear—one of curiosity rather than critique. A great mentor teaches others how to think for themselves rather then always telling them what to do or how to fix something. A great mentor also listens to the feedback of their mentees—even when the feedback is about them. In fact, they listen especially when the feedback is about them. Life-changing mentors take in negative feedback about them, hear it and make changes as a result. Be courageous enough to look at your flaws and learn from them. Listen, listen and listen some more.
4. Be humble. Do not move in power when you don’t like what is happening. Instead, stay centered and compassionate. Be a leader, not a dictator. Great mentors create healthy learning environments where all voices are heard and there’s safety in speaking. We can’t do that if we’re moving in power. Trust that those you mentor are wise in their own right. Be daring enough to learn from them, not just teach them. I’m continuing to learn this everyday and have too many days when I’m not doing it well at all. The combination of humility and strength is a powerful mix. When we learn to master this combo we can accomplish amazing things.
5. Mentor by example. Walk the talk, don’t just talk it. The best mentor I’ve ever had was Dan Hurly (thank you, Dan!). The thing that made him so great was his ability to live the principles he taught. Dan’s value of authenticity reverberated throughout the workplace. We had difficult conversations in respectful ways with people at all levels in the organization. He encouraged us to think outside the box to find new ways to reach higher goals. He also modeled accountability. We could hold him accountable for his actions and responsibilities to the same degree he would hold us accountable—not an easy feat for leaders, let me tell you. To this day, that was the most powerful and rewarding work environment I have ever been a part of.
CHALLENGE: Look over the list above and objectively rate yourself as a life-changing mentor. Choose one area to work on and diligently work it. Continue down the list, enhancing your mentoring skills in each area until you feel you’ve mastered them. Add qualities to your own list.