Saturday, May 2, 2009

Why Mentor?

This guest post is by Misti Burmeister, author, speaker, and coach extraordinaire. She's the author of the bestseller "From Boomers To Bloggers", and owner of Inspirion Inc, a Virginia-based, woman-owned business delivering customized leadership development programs, executive coaching, and keynote speeches.

I had a chance to speak with Misti and came away so impressed by her track record of success, her passion for what she does, and her expertise in workplace generational issues.

In this post, Misti offers a provides a solid business case for mentoring and tips on how to increase your chances of success as a mentor.

You shouldn’t mentor! That is, unless you can see how critical mentoring has become both to young professionals seeking to understand the business world and seasoned professionals eager to learn new, innovative technology.

You might consider mentoring if you know what you have to offer and are eager to share what you know with someone else. You will, without question, be an exceptional mentor if you are ready to receive all the rewards that come when you help someone else. You should only mentor if you care about the long-term success of your organization.

“More than 60% of college and graduate students listed mentoring as a criterion for selecting an employer after graduation” (Source: MMHA)

“76% of Fortune’s top 25 companies offer mentoring programs” (Source: Fortune)

“96% of executives say mentoring is an important development tool” (Source: AccountTemps)

“77% of companies report that mentoring programs were effective in increasing retention” (Source: The Center for Creative Leadership)

“35% of employees who do not receive regular mentoring look for another job within 12 months” (Source: Emerging Workforce study by Spherion)

“62% of employees who have received mentoring say they are very likely to stay with their current employer” (Source: Yellowbrick)

“75% of executives point to mentoring as playing a key role in their careers” (Source: ASTD)

For those of you who have clearly decided that mentoring is for you, here are three tips to increase the chances of huge success as a mentor:

Tip One: Know What You Have To Offer. Before deciding to become a mentor, take 30 minutes to write down all the skills/experiences you have to offer. At the end of the 30 minutes, circle the skills/experiences you want to share. This will offer a fantastic foundation for the mentoring relationship. I also encourage you to create a list of skills/experiences you would like to gain – you never know, this could be a great reverse mentoring relationship – you can learn from each other.

Tip Two: Learn What Your Mentee Is Hoping To Gain. Whether you are participating in a mentoring program within an organization or you are looking to mentor outside the context of a formal mentoring program, it’s essential to learn about what your mentee is hoping to gain from you as their mentor. What kind of skills/experiences are they hoping to gain? Perhaps they want to gain your perspective on their experiences as they go along – either way, it’s important to be clear about what they want to gain.

Tip Three: Set Clear Expectations. The vast majority of mentoring relationships fail miserably because expectations were not clear. It’s important that both the mentor and mentee are clear about what they are hoping to gain from the relationship. Sometimes mentees are hoping for certain connections or possibly even a promotion as a result of the mentoring relationship. I highly discourage professionals from entering mentoring relationships for this reason. Instead, focus on the skills and experiences each would like to gain from the relationship. As a mentor, know what you have and want to offer, communicate it clearly and take the time to learn what your mentee is hoping to gain.

Bonus Tip: Get An Outsider’s Point of View. Mentoring relationships can sometimes present challenges. It’s hugely valuable to have someone to bounce ideas off when things are not going as planned. You can seek this kind of support in an executive coach – you can also ask someone you highly respect to provide an unbiased point of view. It’s important that your “outsider” be committed to the success of the mentoring relationship – not simply committed to making you right!

“For every two Baby Boomers leaving the workforce only one young professional will fill their spot.” – Census data

The vast majority of today’s young professionals are in serious need of strong mentors. That is, those willing to help them see how to successfully navigate their careers. They need the guidance and are eager to gain your support. Since the majority of them have never received feedback and many of them have never been allowed to experience failure, they need someone who is willing and able to help them grow.

Fortunately, their growth is a huge advantage to any company or leader. The more time and energy you put into your people, the more they will give you.

Rock on!

Misti Burmeister


K. Scott Derrick said...


Great post on tips for being an effective mentor. Given the time and energy commitment of a long-term mentoring effort, some mentors (and organizations) might consider using the "flash mentoring" approach. The purpose of flash mentoring is to provide a valuable learning opportunity for less experienced individuals while requiring a limited commitment of time and resources for more experienced individuals serving as mentors. While the commitment is to participate only in the initial flash mentoring session, mentors and mentees can mutually agree to meet again after their initial session. Check out for more information about flash mentoring.

Thanks again for the great insights.

Becky Robinson said...

Thanks, Dan, for including this great post. I linked to your blog from Twitter, because this article is a great follow up for our readers after my post about mentoring last week.

Dan McCarthy said...

thanks, Becky!

Mary Chant said...

If your organization doesn't offer mentoring opportunities, I hope you'll consider volunteering with MicroMentor A nonprofit, MicroMentor is a free online program that connects small business owners with volunteer business mentors. Sharing your expertise is rewarding; and it can help produce measurable results for entrepreneurs. Mary Chant, Web Strategist, MicroMentor

Privy said...

“More than 60% of college and graduate students listed mentoring as a criterion for selecting an employer after graduation” - this statistic alone tells me that leadership mentoring is worthwhile to EVERY business.

I really like the 30 minute task that the author notes to collect all the benefits you can give via mentoring. I've known many young professionals, and making sure that your leadership guides them to success as a new hire is a great leadership skill.

As John Maxwell says, “If you call yourself a leader and no one is following, you are just out for a walk.” Having an effective leadership means mentoring your employees to excel, following your lead.

I've got a great article on leadership mentoring, called Effective Leadership: Mentoring Yourself, Your People and Your Organization

-Anthony P.