People with mentors perform better, and benefits the mentors themselves

Portrait of senior business man sharing his experience with junior executives at office

Did you know that people with mentors perform better, advance in their careers faster, and even experience more work-life satisfaction? Not to mention the benefits the mentors themselves.

Mentorship: In a new article from Harvard Business Review* shows the useful insights about building mentoring relationships. After all, “to teach is to learn twice.” Despite all these benefits, and even though 76% of working professionals believe that a mentor is important to growth, more than 54% do not have such a relationship. Mentoring is important, not only because of the knowledge and skills an adept can learn from a mentor, but also because mentoring provides professional socialization and personal support to both the mentor and adept.

Your legacy: Through a period of 12 years I had the pleasure of having Mr. Bård Mikkelsen as my mentor, the former President & CEO of Statkraft, and chairman of several board of director in major public companies. Bård is also who I credit for guiding me in my development as a leader, a strategist, and a complete business professional. He always encouraged me to think through issues and approaches with his questions, and he served as a source of knowledge when I needed it the most. He also challenged me for lifelong education, first my diploma in management, then my MBA and then my PhD. I carry with me his impact in my work today. Have you ever thought about your legacy? Have you ever thought on how you want people to think of you? In my first meeting with Bård, he asked me the exact above-mentioned questions. Then he told me to go home and write my own necrology. First mentor session was over, I think it was over in 15 minutes, but he ended up of being my mentor for a period of 12 years, with mentor meetings for 1-2 hours once a month. Our legacies will not be our Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat etc. profiles. Nor our fame, fortune, or high-executive positions. Our legacies will be manifested in the thoughts, feelings and stories of the people that surrounded us. Whether they are our children, family, colleagues, or neighbours, it is how they experienced us, that will be maintained as memories of our legacies. Therefore, we should all be more aware of our daily impact on the people with which we spend the most time with.

Paying it Forward It is all about paying it forward; our legacy of mentorship lives on through those we mentored. Bård was as mentioned my mentor for 12 years, now I have mentees and protégés myself. I cannot emphasize enough the gratitude and experiences I learn though mentorship. I plan to cultivate my mentor’s legacy by sharing Bårds lessons, insight, and wisdom with anyone that will listen. One insight that Bård thought me was, “as a leader we need to listen twice as much we speak. Train the next generation of executive that will follow. It’s all about participating in the success of others that will make us successful”. Although mentorship is important for growth in all aspects of life, the mentor-mentee relationship is vital to the continuous evolution of great leadership.  Being a mentor or finding a mentor are both difficult. Nevertheless, it is both fulfilling.

Finding a Mentor: To find a mentor is a process that is both deliberate and organic. The process can also be intimidating due to you must make an active act to find a mentor. It is not like a potential mentor will approach you and ask can I be your mentor. Rather it is up to you, where you need to start searching and approaching someone who can be your mentor. A mentee must show that he or she is a good use of a mentors limited time. The people who strive to learn; the self-starters; the people who can take constructive criticism; those are the people that I am likely to give my limited time too.  

Self-appraisal: If you decide officially to seek a mentor, you should start with a self-appraisal that involves asking yourself questions that require honest answers. These questions can include the following:

  • What are my strengths?
  • What are my weaknesses?
  • What skills do I want to learn?
  • What are my ultimate goals?
  • How much time do I have to dedicate to a mentor-mentee relationship?
  • What is my learning style?
  • What skills do I possess now?

By honestly answering the above-mentioned questions, you will have started the process of recruiting the mentor that fit your style, work-life balance, and mission. One of the most effective ways of being noticed by potential mentors is by providing value first in some capacity. Finally, do not stop seeking a mentor—persistence is key. Go to conferences, cold-call people you look up to, send emails, send LinkedIn invitations, ask for the extra work and continuously be there. No matter what industry or profession you are in, you must be proactive to find a mentor. Mentors will not seek you out, you must seek out your mentor.

It is about possesses intellectual curiosity: Do not just go the extra mile, live in the extra mile. Listens with intention to listen not to find an answer to questions. You must be willing to share both experiences, success, and failure with others

Becoming and Being a Mentor: Is one of the most fulfilling roles that I have experienced as a professional. For the last 12 years I have been a mentor for students at the Norwegian School of management, the University of South-East Norway, and the University of East London. As a mentor you get to see first-hand the development of someone you genuinely care about and guide them through all or distinct phases of life through which we both change. As a mentor or mentor-to-be, you need to be diligent when choosing your mentee and protégé. Just as mentees need to ask themselves questions about their intentions and dedication, mentors need to be aware of their ability to provide the resources and time to their mentees. Mentoring is a learned process that needs continued adjustments for different mentees and work environments. All mentor-mentee relationships need to be genuine, organic and have a two-way direction of communication. As a mentor you need to follow certain general guidelines to make sure they are living up to their end of the bargain in the relationship. Mentors must be available and ready to be there for their mentees while they experience their inevitable struggles inherent to all growth. Mentors must be tough. Mentorship is not friendship (at least not at first). The goal is to test the capacity and determination of the mentee. This can be done through questions, activities, conversations, and raw—but constructive—feedback and instructions.

Mentors must be open to making introductions for their mentees. One of the most productive ways toward career advancement is growing your network. A mentor can do wonders for their mentee’s profile by introducing them to other high-level and powerful colleagues and contacts. Most importantly, mentors need to be genuine and authentic leaders to their mentees. Trust is so vital to this relationship, and honest and open dialogue is paramount for success in the long term. Mentoring can make an enormous impact on peoples’ lives and career paths. Mentors must decide to take on this responsibility for the right and genuine reasons. It is all about the mentee. As a mentor you always growing and develops along with your mentees. If you are looking for a mentor, I salute you. Your desire for direction, support and leadership says something about your own character. The world needs more leaders; those who care about not only their own success, but also for a sustainable world. I cannot express enough the importance of cultivating leadership skills for one’s career advancement.

The Bottom Line: A mentor can be a difference maker in your career and life, certainly it was for me. It is important to come to the relationship with open eyes on the role and to have proper expectations. And remember, the impact of a mentor’s guidance and wisdom now may not be felt for years to come. However, it will be felt. If you focus on cultivating your leadership skills, continuously build new relationships with potential mentors, and guide your fellow colleagues to success, it will lead you to great roles and success in your career. So, if you are looking for a mentor, do it because you expect to be a mentor yourself one day. The world will be a better place for it and so will the legacy you leave.


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