The Sweet Spot for Mentoring

by Jennifer Miller on September 24, 2009

in Leadership, Personal Effectiveness, Team Effectiveness

Note: this blog post is a collaborative effort between Jennifer V. Miller and Lisa Rosendahl.  We’ve each taken a different perspective on the topic of mentoring. Lisa’s post explores what attributes Human Resource/Talent Managers look for in potential mentors. This blog post explores mentor readiness from a personal perspective, asking: “How do you know you’re ready to be a mentor?”

Throughout my career, I’ve had many fantastic mentors.  My mentors helped me gain perspective, broaden my thinking and develop confidence.  When designing leadership development programs, I often build a mentoring component into the mix because I’ve personally experienced how valuable the process is. 

Companies often have formal mentoring programs and it’s assumed that people of a certain experience level will naturally gravitate towards being a mentor.  But do they?  Not always.  One of the barriers to effective mentoring programs is a good match between the mentor and protégé. Simply having X number of years experience doesn’t equip someone to be an effective mentor.  There’s a certain mindset required.  How do you know when you’re ready to be a mentor?  Let me share a story with you to help illustrate this mindset.

There’s a Senior Vice President (“Barb”) who’s well-known in her company for being the consummate mentor.  Barb believes so strongly in mentoring that she actively seeks out and arranges mentors for all of her direct reports.  So when I was tapped to develop a leadership program for mid-level leaders, Barb was the natural choice to do a presentation on the topic of mentoring.  Her session was a huge hit. During her presentation, Barb talked about how for the first 15 years of her career, she actively sought out mentors and was rewarded with a varied and rich assortment of business relationships because of it.  As she rose through the corporate ranks, she noticed that there were less available mentors. 

One day, Barb had an epiphany—she realized that it was her time to be the mentor.  The student had become the teacher! It wasn’t that she didn’t need any more mentoring; rather, it was that the balance of needs had shifted and it was now her time to give back.

Barb’s experience points to a key milestone in a person’s growth: that moment when it becomes apparent that there resides within you enough wisdom to be helpful to others.  There’s another factor as well: your energy level and desire to mentor others.  In my observation, that’s the “sweet spot” of mentoring— where your wisdom and energy intersect.

Where are you in your life that you can give back?  Surely you have experience, expertise and wisdom in some area that someone will benefit from.  And where’s your energy around sharing this wisdom?  Is it with youth? With up-and-coming co-workers?  With soon-to-be retired professionals entering their “second life”? 

Line up your energy and your wisdom and see what great mentoring experiences result.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Thomas Waterhouse September 25, 2009 at 6:36 am

As we learn self-discipline by being “discipled”, I think we love because we first receive love. The day that a spark of gratitude flashed for all of the energy and wisdom that had been invested in my life, the calling to invest in others became as natural as breathing. And yes, it is indeed a very “sweet spot”. Thank you Jennifer. Oh yeah, it’s a “Yay!”

Leave a Comment

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: