Why is it so easy to say, “no” when someone asks us to participate in a mentoring program at the office?

Mentoring can sometimes be like estate planning:  everybody knows it’s a good idea but few people do it. Here’s why…

Most agree the main purpose of the corporate mentoring relationship is to develop the Mentee in his or her career. Benefits can include: personalized career development; decision-making support; increased visibility; and enhanced confidence, among others.

But too often the benefits to the Mentee overshadow those to the Mentor. So let’s be clear…the Mentor wins too. More people become Mentors when there is clarity on what they have to gain professionally.

Done properly the Mentor can gain some or all of the following benefits:

1. Build your own sphere of influence.

Every time you ask for help from people who are organizationally above you, you increase their power and reinforce your role as subordinate.  By mentoring professionals with less career experience or technical knowledge you develop your own sphere of influence inside your organization. As more people approach you for help, your capital grows.

2. Turbo-charge your ability to attract future talent.

Closely related to, but different from #1 (above) is your future ability to attract talent.  As you move to different companies to advance your career your ability to hire the right people becomes increasingly important.  You become more responsible for succession planning and attracting quality talent. The more you Mentor, the more you know the pool of talent available the next time you are hiring.

3. Excellent practice to improve listening skills.

Active listening is a key element to emotional intelligence and those who do it well will advance their careers more rapidly. Because Mentor/Mentee conversations are different than other corporate meetings they create excellent opportunities to develop or sharpen the habit of active listening.

4. Mentees help us see ourselves.

One of the most natural benefits of the mentoring relationship is the opportunity for you to really see yourself. It’s hard to notice your career growth when you are comparing yourself to peers who are advancing at the same relative rate.  Being a Mentor provides the unique experience of seeing a prior version of yourself (in the Mentee.) This appreciation of how far you’ve grown professionally can contribute to greater satisfaction at work and refresh your perspective on your own career goals.

5. Develop your own leadership style.

There is no more direct way to develop your own leadership skills than to invest in the career of another professional. This takes practice. Being a Mentor provides the opportunity to practice leadership beyond your day-to-day responsibilities; expanding your repertoire of situational problem solving skills. This investment in your own leadership style will almost certainly benefit you in ways you can’t even foresee.

6. Satisfaction of investing in someone else.

Very simply, it feels good to know you are supporting someone else with his or her leadership and career development.

Remembering these six benefits should help you realize that the Mentor has as much to gain in the relationship as the Mentee. The next time somebody asks you to Mentor another professional, think twice before saying “no”.

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