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Mentoring – Who Are You a Mentor To?

Author: Larry Chester, Founder & President

A key suggestion for all newly minted employees is to “find a mentor.” A mentor can provide valuable advice for a young employee about company politics, work ethic, inner office communications, office etiquette and sometimes even work/life balance. A mentor is often viewed as someone who can help guide you in your career, and therefore someone who is more important early in a career.

If a mentor is someone that only guides you in your current job, that becomes problematic when the war for talent is increasing while an employee’s time at a company is decreasing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in their press release on September 20, 2018, found that workers 20 – 24 years old have a job tenure of only 1.2 years, and then tenure more than doubles in the next age group, while workers that are 45 – 54 have an average tenure of 7.6 years. So, how do you provide mentoring to someone who is only at your company for 1.2 years? Maybe the problem is defining who you should mentor.

I think mentoring is a lifelong process, not just one for new employees. Experienced employees need mentoring and guidance as much as younger workers. For many people, their lack of a mentor didn’t hold them back. Their personal need to achieve drove them to their ultimate success. So, if you didn’t have a mentor, did you want one? Did you feel that you would have had less stress with someone more experienced (not necessarily older) guiding you?

I never had a mentor guide me through my career. Maybe it was because I changed industries too often. But I felt a need to have someone to answer all those questions that I had. Perhaps many others feel that void as well. So, if you didn’t have a mentor, and felt the void, are you willing to be a mentor to someone else, so that they don’t face what you did? Who do you mentor, and how do you do that?

To me, mentoring is an educational experience. You get to see the world through someone else’s eyes and emotions. Your opportunity is to provide a filter through your experience. And, that mentoring experience can not only be industry-specific, but job and interpersonal related as well.

Your ability to mentor comes from your experience, otherwise known as your “company smarts.” As a mentor, your first job is to listen closely to what your mentee says. They might not come right out and tell you important things. It’s up to you to get a sense from their tone and their word choice to understand their frustration or their uncertainty. By asking more questions, to clearly define their issues, you will be able to sincerely provide them with guidance that will be meaningful to them, and quite possibly put them on a new path.

I visit with my staff on a monthly basis for one full hour to talk to them about each of their clients. I talk to them about their approach, and what’s happening on the ground. As a business owner, I want each of my staff working to provide a consistent experience for our clients. That continual review of their work, and approach to any issue they face, allows me to direct them, guide them to continue to be successful with their clients, our company’s clients. In that regard, I serve as their mentor and their guide, to help them become better employees, better CFOs, and better Trusted Advisors. In your company, whatever your company does, you can provide the same interface with the people who work for you.

By doing that, you are providing a valuable service to them, allowing them to learn from your mistakes, from your experience. Because that is what a mentor does.

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