Where Have All the Mentors Gone?

If each of us is honest, we know mentoring played a role for us in however we define success. Many of us think of our mentors as close friends or even family members. Many of us also think of our mentors as great teachers.

And, if we are lucky, we are able to serve as mentors, too. Lucky because we gain so much when we listen to actual and perceived obstacles to those who place their trust in us – and help them overcome these barriers.

But why do we see less formal and informal mentoring now than we did in the past? This is problematic because mentoring today is so important for developing tomorrow’s leaders.

So, why is there less mentoring? Four (4) reasons:

Formal mentoring programs cost money. Has any of you been given a blank check of recent?

Then, there is the time. We all are stretched out of our minds. Who has time to give more when you are just trying to survive?

Third, many people don’t believe they’re equipped to mentor another when they have deep knowledge, wisdom and experience to share.

Finally, there are fears of the legal risks. Can I keep a mentoring relationship strictly professional? And, if not, am I potentially walking into a discrimination claim if issues arise such as family planning?

We need to find ways to make sure mentoring happens even with these obstacles. The needs of business and its future leaders command it.

But first we need to discuss what mentoring is—and what it is not.   What words pop into your mind when you hear the word “mentor?”

It is coaching not just on skills but how to pivot in the organization.   Yes, that means helping to navigate the political realities

A mentor is not a cheerleader. But a good mentor does provide a safety net for prudent risk taking.

We need to think about the role of gender in mentoring programs. More specifically, some employers match based on gender. This is problematic for two reasons:

First, it stereotypes regarding who will connect with whom. Second, it disadvantages women where there are more men at the top.

Finally, since not every organization has a formal mentoring program, sometimes employees need to ask. Look inside and outside.

And, keep in mind mentoring is a two-way street. When asking, make clear to your potential mentor the benefits of mentoring.

Finally, if you are asked to be a mentor but don’t want to or don’t feel you can be effective, be direct. Do not say “yes” when you want to say “no.” That’s not fair to either of you!

Image credit : Gratisography