I don’t think it’s happenstance that National Mentoring Month falls in January, a month associated with starting over, resolutions and new beginnings. Many people seek to change their habits, outlook and lives at the beginning of the year, and what better way to do that than through mentoring?
As we celebrate this wonderful practice, here are three resolutions you can make to bring mentoring into your life and your organization.
1. Seek out mentoring opportunities.
Do you know someone who has asked you questions at work about how to do something? (Maybe they want to learn how to design better PowerPoint presentations and admire yours, or perhaps they want to learn how you always speak so eloquently at meetings.) Or do you know someone who has been tasked with a new project that you have experience with? Does someone show an interest in an area that you feel confident in and have expertise in?
This is a great opportunity to engage in mentoring. It can be as formal or informal as you like, but offer your time and expertise to this person, and tell them that you’d like to help them build their skills in the area that they need. It doesn’t have to be awkward or uncomfortable; just say that you are happy to help and would enjoy setting up a time to talk with them about this topic on a weekly basis to give you both the opportunity to discuss ideas, share experiences and address their questions.
On the flip side, do you have an area where you would like to improve your skills? Is there a co-worker whom you admire and would like to learn from? Now is your chance! Ask them if they have a few minutes to discuss your questions and interest in their skills. If it goes well, you can ask to meet again. Be sure to have a goal you can focus on so that the conversation in targeted and purposeful. Go into this discussion with a specific ask so that you make good use of their time and yours.
Finally, if you are among the fortunate employees who have a mentoring program at work, investigate how you can participate. Reach out to the administrator of the program, and sign up if possible. Look for ways you can contribute as both a mentee and a mentor.
2. Champion a mentoring program.
While many organizations have formal mentoring programs, they may be limited to select audiences, such as high-potential employees who are invited as part of an exclusive group. These programs are productive but limited in scope.
So, ask yourself this question: Are there other places in your company where mentoring could be beneficial? Are there other development programs that already exist where mentoring could play a supportive role?
Most organizations have leadership development initiatives and performance development processes in place for their employees. These programs can be a great place to tie in mentoring in a natural way that enhances the original program while also bringing mentoring opportunities to more people.
Other integration ideas include:
- A mentoring program that pulls together experts and learners after people complete leadership development courses
- Mentoring groups for employees after they complete skills-based training courses to help reinforce their learning as they apply it on the job
- Peer mentoring groups and one-to-one relationships that use existing communities of practice as launch pads for deeper learning
- A mentoring program focused on new-hire orientation to assist with onboarding new talent and introduce new employees to mentors
- A broad diversity and inclusion mentoring initiative to bring more visibility and mentoring opportunities to a diverse employee population
Be creative when looking for a place where mentoring could fit into the overall organization. The opportunity to learn from one another and build relevant skills for day-to-day work can fit just about anywhere.
3. Share why mentoring matters.
Mentoring can have a profound impact on the people involved. It can help mentees connect with people who have been through similar situations and who can provide first-person accounts of how they overcame specific challenges. It can help mentors share their experiences and give them a structured process through which they can guide new learners on their journeys of personal discovery. It can help people build relationships and create safe environments in which they can experiment with solutions to problems they face. It can also help organizations build a culture of openness and support where knowledge is shared freely and where all employees are encouraged to pursue personal and professional development opportunities.
In research by mentoring software firm River, 90 percent of mentees and mentors said that the mentoring program helped them develop a positive relationship with another individual in the company. Additionally, 83 percent said mentoring helped them enhance the skills they need to perform their job, while the same percent also said their mentoring experience positively influenced their desire to stay at their organization. In terms of overall satisfaction, 93 percent of mentees and 95 percent of mentors said their mentoring relationships were useful. From employee engagement and retention to productivity, mentoring makes a difference.
Personal stories are also a powerful way to highlight the positive impact mentoring can have. Share your story, and encourage others to share theirs as well. Anecdotes bring mentoring to life and show how it really works in practice, not just in theory.
Now it’s your turn. Make a resolution today to bring mentoring into your life and work. It is absolutely worth it.