part of something that is bigger than a company. The business culture is
internally based, but the philanthropy is external. That volunteer ethos
provides something more than a quarterly return on earnings . . . it stretches employees
beyond their day-to-day job.”
– Rick Luftglass, former director of The
Pfizer Foundation’s education volunteer programs
have long known that their best employees are successful often because they
have acquired skills beyond those needed
to be an employee. In fact, the greatest managers and executives learn that
skills to inspire and lead others do not
naturally come from working as a subordinate. Rather, they come from testing
out leadership skills in relationships with others.
can let those skills develop on their own – e.g. through the growth of the
individual as he or she is exposed to more work-based situations, and as he or
she must resolve corporate problems and adjust to new organizational scenarios.
But a company is remiss if it doesn’t actively challenge its employees by
providing and encouraging these growth-developing opportunities outside of work.
a recent study on business volunteerism and how it attracts, develops, and
retains talent, Deloitte found that 92% of the people surveyed agreed that
volunteering improves employees’ broader professional skill sets as well as
adding to their leadership skills. As a matter of fact, they learned that 80%
of active volunteers move more easily into leadership roles and grow their
careers further as a result.
specifically mentoring, is one of the best ways a company can grow its
employees as leaders in many other tangible ways. Let’s review these in detail:
Mentoring teaches you to plan, to help others execute, and to be flexible–all traits of leadership.
As a mentor to a class of students or to individuals, you need to be organized
to fill your time productively. You will be potentially teaching a younger
mentee applicable real world skill sets. Patience and precision in your
communication will be required as you begin to educate a new learner. Meanwhile, witnessing another take hold of a
new idea requires your agility and empathy.
Ultimately, you begin to understand that your shared knowledge is received by others and how.
hones your ability to think while you speak. As you become more
comfortable presenting to classrooms of students, you will find that your
dialogue is less rigid, and more conforming to how the conversation flows. You will
start to reorganize your thoughts – and perhaps your entire presentation –
based on how your students respond. Being flexible in your implementation and
thinking as you “do,” are invaluable traits for a leader.
positions you as the role model, and the mentees begin
to model themselves after your behavior. This is an unparalleled way to learn
how to be a leader. Since you represent the little-known business world to students,
as a mentor, you think about how to model a successful business person. You
think about your appearance, your language, and your style. You teach the
mentees how to keep a cool head through obstacles, and how to design a strategy
to overcome hurdles.
gives you confidence. As students model your
behavior, and as your internal fears surprise you by turning into successes, you
will naturally start to become more confident. This self-realized confidence
will make all the difference in your career path – especially when you are
presented with new scenarios in business, in which you will have to rely on
your own intuition, confidence, and abilities to overcome.
will prompt you to realize how far you have come, and how far you can bring mentees. As you continue to
meet with your students, you will start to think, “Oh! I’ve been here before. I
remember when I was their age …” And then you will start to consider how far
you have come on your own journey. This will not only contribute to your
confidence; it will also contribute to your appreciation of what mentoring
brings to these students. In due time, you will see the ripple effect that your
presence, your ideas, and your time has had on others. This contributes to a mentor’s new found empowerment.
As adults, we often focus on our achievements when discussing our careers with
others. We are trained to tout our successes in our resumes, and to bring out
the most hire-worthy aspects of our career during interviews. We might even use
industry-specific words that sound like we really
know our stuff. With students, however, this approach can be limiting, and even
inauthentic. Students already know that certain times require a focus on the
highlights, rather than the low points. But those aren’t what are interesting. Students
are far more curious about the struggles and the bumps in the road. They want
to hear how you thought you were defeated, and what you did next. And to best
relate to the students, mentors will learn how to use the language the students
speak. Bring the conversation to their level. When you think about the needs of
your audience, you become a better
builds reliability. At one point, you may
have been the “I’m-always-10-minutes-late” person. Or maybe you were the
quintessential procrastinator. As a mentor, your inclination to be late or to procrastinate
will diminish quickly. Before long you will learn how to structure your day
accordingly because you will feel responsible to others who need you and who
look up to you. What impact will your tardiness have to your mentee? You will learn the value of being reliable to
Perhaps one of the most elusive, but also one of the most valuable skills, is learning
how to listen better. As
you grow in your mentorship, you will learn to listen more, and pick up on non-verbal
cues. Eventually, you will communicate based on this feedback. A good mentor
can take the pulse of the mentees as a dialogue progresses. He or she can learn
how to gauge the interest of a class or an individual, and determine if a
different tactic should be used. More importantly, a great mentor – and a great
leader uses feedback to shape their communication and become even stronger and
more effective. And the mentor learns a valuable asset for leadership.
a mentor, you may feel you are learning these traits just so that you can
“survive.” But before long, you will see that these traits also benefit you in
the C-Suite. In this case, the “giving” does result in the “receiving.” I
encourage you to join our cause at www.teachtowork.com.
I am confident you will impact your life, by impacting others.
Patty Alper, author of Teach to Work: How a Mentor, a Mentee, and a Project Can Close the Skills Gap in America has been in the field of marketing, communications, and sales for thirty-five years. She’s successfully served firms in the real estate, hospitality, finance, and non-profit sectors through her consulting practice, The Alper Portfolio Group, Inc. For eighteen years, she has been a trustee of the Alper Family Foundation. It is through her philanthropic giving that she became engaged with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and how she ultimately developed the “Adopt a Class” program. Alper was honored as the 2010 NFTE Philanthropist of the Year, DC region and currently sits on the National Board.