A mentoring relationship may be a powerful way to accelerate learning and boost leadership skills for any entrepreneur, business owner, or leader, compared to typical online training courses and learnings.
Potential benefits of having a mentor include:
- Focus and gain clarity on issues or hurdles
- Receive encouragement and moral support toward goals and projects
- Gain access to people in their network that might be a resource for your career
- Receive candid feedback
In a nutshell, a good mentor may help you discover your hidden strengths. It's akin to having a trusted friend. Encouraging mentoring can be invaluable to a company.
Mentoring is a Leadership Tool, Beyond Traditional 1:1 Mentorship
Traditionally, mentoring has been a face-to-face relationship between an experienced senior professional and an emerging younger professional. But today, leaders and their teams may benefit from multiple mentors that specialize in widely different areas and industries in order to accelerate their learning.
Mentorship can be a much more powerful tool when leveraged outside of conventional mentoring programs for other uses, including:
- DEI initiatives
- Succession planning
- Knowledge retention
To supplement a conventional mentoring program and help utilize mentoring as a leadership tool within your company, consider these three avenues:
1. Team, Group, and Peer Mentoring
Today's leaders may look for guidance from a network of peers within their professions. To fill that need, consider establishing team mentoring relationships across different functions of the company. For example, there could be a peer mentoring group of senior women within the organization.
Peer mentoring relationships can help members see behind the curtain and may help people grow in their roles. It can also be key in developing leadership skills, maximizing the number of mentors in your company, increasing engagement, and bringing new perspectives to the forefront.
Another benefit of cross-functional peer mentoring is that it might encourage a cross-pollination of new ideas.
You may want to also consider a peer mentoring program with a group of six or seven peers from outside the organization. This group can meet periodically to share advice, knowledge and experience.
2. Virtual and Remote Mentoring
Our digital culture can make it easy to tap into multiple mentors through a host of social networks where communities share their practices and resources with followers. One example of this type of network is a Q&A site such as Quora. There are also online mentoring sites such as SCORE, a network of volunteer business mentors providing free answers to business questions.
3. Mentoring Through Heroes
Heroes can model the way, inspire us, and can show us what's possible. They may come from many different areas, such as entrepreneurs, leaders, professionals, other successful business owners, musicians, or artists. There's a treasure trove of people to follow and learn from.
Who are your heroes? Consider making a point of following their journey, and actively learn from them. When you're facing an issue, consider asking yourself, "How might my hero deal with this?" These people can be vicarious mentors. You can even try reaching out to them via email or social media; you may be surprised how much people want to help.
Defining the Role Mentorship Plays in Leadership Development
Mentorship is also a key business tool for leadership development in your company. Great leaders learn from their own personal experiences in the workplace and from those who they've worked with. Ensuring there are mentors available to learn from inside your business can help elevate employee performance and efficiency, teach critical skills to future leaders, and outline a path to success for mentees.
Mentoring is not about telling people to do this or that. It's about showing them the possibilities.
How Becoming a Mentor Can Help Sharpen Your Leadership Skills
An effective way of helping you grow your leadership skills may be becoming a mentor yourself.
We don't often talk about the skills we can strengthen from being a mentor, but mentorship can be a two-way street, benefitting both parties.
Here are three key leadership skills to consider:
1. Mentoring enables effective and active listening skills
It may be difficult to give everyone your undivided attention, but learning how to actively listen is an invaluable skill when it comes to leading a team.
Practicing these active listening techniques while mentoring can help to train your focus:
- Keep eye contact
- Maintain open body language
- Be fully present
- Avoid interrupting
- Listen without judging
- Ask open-ended questions
Mentoring on a regular basis may help you give your full attention to others when they're speaking to you. This is one practice that could pay dividends in your own leadership development.
2. Mentoring broadens your perspective
Mentoring may help you see things with new eyes. Consider mentoring people who are different from you. This may include people in different industries, age groups, or genders, for example.
This diversity in mentoring opportunities may help you see multiple perspectives, which can broaden and enrich your thinking. Learning to appreciate multiple perspectives may also enhance your problem-solving skills by helping you generate new solutions to problems.
3. Mentoring sharpens your storytelling abilities
Mentoring is not about telling people to do this or that. It's about showing them the possibilities. One of the most memorable ways of doing this is through storytelling. Stories can help make the message stick. There are likely many stories from your own experience that can help those you mentor and be used as a tool to inspire, influence, and transform individuals and organizations.
Storytelling can also be useful in your own role as a leader, and practicing storytelling within a mentoring relationship may help. Such relationships usually provide a safe environment because they're generally based on mutual trust. Storytelling can become a benefit for both parties.
Read more articles on leadership skills.
A version of this article was originally published on March 01, 2017.
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