Mentorship

The Gift that Gives Right Back
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” – Oscar Wilde

While there is no denying the value of hard work and the role that sacrifice plays in the achievement of personal growth or professional development, very few people can say that they achieved greatness without the support of someone who came before them.

Mentors may be teachers, coaches, professors, managers, friends, family members or respected members of the community who are looked to for advice, wisdom, encouragement, and guidance. They have already experienced success in their own lives and can give back to their community, organization, or place of business by uplifting the next generation.

Behind the most famous or well-known people are mentors. Without Socrates, there would be no Plato, and without Plato, no Aristotle. Before Zuckerberg came Jobs and before Jobs, Campbell. Ruth Bader Ginsberg served as a mentor for a number of women, both directly and indirectly, and that mentorship has been invaluable to many.

A source of power
While these are all different examples in different industries and sectors, the one thing they share is that there is great power in mentorship.

In some cases, though, the power can become the source of struggle. When the student seeks to become the teacher, mentorship can become the source of friendly (and sometimes unfriendly) competition which has led to some of the greatest talents and innovations of our time.

Mentorship is a good way to create networks and drive innovation. It is a free resource that is available to schools, places of employment, organizations, and professional networks to preserve institutional memory, convey culture and share some of the dos and don’ts to promote success.

Mentors offer information about their own experiences and offer guidance, support, and motivation to those taking first steps on their career paths or those seeking professional development or networking opportunities. It is a relationship based on trust, honesty, communication, and confidentiality that helps mentees set and achieve their own goals while becoming leaders in their own right.

Mentorship is a very effective onboarding tool for interns or new hires and can add a great deal of value to the lives and organizations the participants are a part of. The advantages of mentorship programs are threefold: they serve the organization, the mentee, and the mentor in very different ways.

A Fortune 500 kind of thing
Over seventy percent of Fortune 500 companies have some form of mentorship program in place. Of those who have had a mentor, ninety-seven percent found value in the program, but unfortunately, only thirty-seven percent of professionals in the workforce have a mentor. Of those who had a mentor, eighty-nine percent will become a mentor themselves.

Mentors support growth of the individual and the organization by improving the knowledge and skill base, creating a system of encouragement and accountability, and an image to be emulated. It is a way to help someone learn from your mistakes, so they don’t have to share the same experience while also growing qualifications, networks, and potential to succeed.

Of course, it feels good to do good, but there is far more to be gained from being a mentor than the confidence and pride of knowing that you helped someone and also strengthened the organization you are a part of.

For both the mentor and the mentee, mentorship programs are the platform through which growth of technical and interpersonal skills and success is facilitated. It is a source of improved confidence, an opportunity to gain new perspectives and a trusted ally who always provides a sympathetic ear.

Mentorship programs can be one-on-one, project-based, or group-based. Sometimes all it takes is a peer to listen, a simple pairing of two people at different stages of development, and at other times it is a full-fledged program dedicated to advancing mentorship and the advantages it brings.

Ten Thousand Coffees is an example of one of those programs. It powers career development through professional networking and mentoring opportunities and offers the option of one-on-one or group connections. The system is designed to automatically connect relevant participants within an organization.

Ten Thousand Coffees partnered with RBC Future Launch to create networking and mentoring programs at leading schools across Canada to bring students, recent graduates and alumni working in their respective fields together. At the time of publication, RBC’s website listed seventy participating organizations.

Millennial choice
Mentorship is particularly valued by millennials, who are set to become a majority of the workforce in the coming years. Mentorship programs are a component part of increasing the rate of promotion and retention, in addition to improving minority representation. They also contribute to improved productivity, skills development, employee satisfaction and most importantly, greater profitability.

There is no limit to how much industries can benefit from mentorship. From students to professionals, athletes to entertainers, it is a fact that behind many of the great successes across industries and sectors is a mentor. The same can be said about the strongest, most profitable companies and brands.

There are some simple principles to creating an effective mentorship program. As there is no one-size-fits-all model of mentorship, organizations or mentors/mentees have the flexibility to create a program that best suits their needs. While there is no perfect answer, there are some questions to consider for success.

First things first: what is the objective or purpose of the mentorship program? What do you hope to get out of it? What strategy will you employ or how will you model the program to ensure that the correct candidates participate in the program so that both the mentor and the mentee (as well as any participating organization) optimize the mutual benefits derived?

Other things to consider: is your program going to be formal? Will it be informal? If your organization is defined by structured processes, perhaps a formal program will be the most impactful. If your organization is grass roots, a less formal approach like a sharing circle or collaborative group work might best serve your needs.

Maximizing reciprocal benefits
It is important to create meaningful matches between mentors and mentees. It is also imperative to ensure that mentors are given adequate training and resources to maximize the reciprocal benefits of the relationship. Systems of accountability can be built into the process to monitor progress.

For many businesses and organizations, there is a significant demand for skilled labour and talent development is an outcome of mentorship. Mentorship can be used to attract high school students or job seekers to careers in the trades, or it can help companies preserve institutional memory that is being lost through attrition.

Mentorship is a simple tool that can have a profound impact and is an easy way to engage employees to be the best version of themselves. It can improve productivity and profits, employee retention and development, organizational success and brand strength. Mentorship will also encourage and enhance a culture where people are empowered to improve, not only for themselves, but also for others and the greater organization.

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