It is common knowledge that if you want to improve your own skills, teach someone else. You can help transform someone’s life by taking them under your wing and helping them learn something new. Bonus – you will probably find that you are getting better at it, too! Mentoring is a reciprocal journey of growth and learning, a dynamic process that enriches both the mentor and the mentee.
The essence of mentoring lies in recognizing opportunities to guide and support others, perhaps someone who mirrors your earlier self in the business world. Embracing the role of mentorship entails selflessly sharing knowledge and insights, guiding others to success while helping them sidestep the pitfalls you once encountered. Teaching someone else can also act as a refresher for what you have previously learned and may get you refocused on areas that may have been forgotten.
In my book, The Networking Mentor, I tell a story about a gentleman who coached his 10-year-old son’s chess club. Well… that story is actually about me. I coached my son’s elementary school chess club and I thought, “This is going to be easy enough, I’m pretty good at chess.” Then I realized – I had never studied the game. I read one book in high school, and I was totally self-taught. Guess what? You can’t teach kids that way; you must know what the chess moves are. So, I had to learn what a fork, a skewer, a pin, a ladder – these are all terms for moves in chess – I had to learn what they were so I could coach the children. Well, the funny thing is that I was a pretty good player and I regularly played with a friend of mine. One day he said to me, “Man, what are you doing?” And I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Your game has really gotten better.” I said, “Oh, I’m coaching 10-year-olds.” He said, “No, really. What are you doing?” I replied, “Seriously. I’m coaching 10-year-olds.”
I had offered to help the chess club thinking that it would be great to spend time with my son and his friends. I didn’t occur to me that I would become a better player through coaching them! By helping these young chess enthusiasts, I had to brush up on my game and do my homework to learn the names of the moves and the strategies that I had done intuitively for years. I was amazed at how my game improved by coaching elementary school kids, and so was my friend.
Some people say they don’t have time to be a mentor. To them, I say, “Find a way to make the time if at all possible.” You see, every time I was a mentor to someone it was also a learning experience for me. When I was given topics of concern from people I mentored, I always did some research and looked at my own files to see if there was something I could offer to help them through the issue. I came to realize that I was improving myself while I was helping them.
To those who claim a lack of time for mentorship, I urge reconsideration. Mentorship isn’t merely a commitment of time. It’s an investment in personal and professional growth – for both of you. The same is true with mentoring people to network better.
Networking and Mentoring
The process of mentoring people to be a better networker not only benefits the mentee, it also benefits the mentor. Just as coaching young minds in chess strategy compelled me to refine my own game, serving as a networking mentor prompts a refreshing review of learned principles and a reinvigoration of neglected areas. And there is immense gratification in watching someone grow, reach their goals, and achieve success.
The mentoring relationship is working as long as you continue to receive and/or give value to the relationship. I have personally had some mentoring relationships where I started as the mentee and, over time, it evolved to where I was a peer mentoring my mentor on certain issues. That’s when you know you’ve developed a long-term friendship. Ideally, a strong mentoring relationship evolves into a lasting connection and friendship. In the realm of business networking, mentoring yields mutual benefits.
Whose Story Are You In?
Every single one of us has people in our lives who have made a difference. We all have someone in our story who influenced the path we took, or perhaps motivated us to carve our own path. These are the mentors we’ve had along the way and their impact can be life changing. By devoting time and attention to a mentoring relationship, both parties reap deeply powerful and meaningful rewards that extend well beyond simple financial gain. As we mature and gain more experience, we have the opportunity to transition from being a mentee to also being a mentor.
We all have people who are in our story. I believe the real powerful thing in mentoring is to ask: Whose story are YOU in? Whose life are you making a difference in? It is part of a Givers Gain® attitude – what goes around comes around. Someone has helped me; now I’m going to help them, or someone else, be successful. It becomes about the difference you can make in other people’s lives; that is what creates a meaningful life.
Perhaps there is someone who already considers you a mentor, or maybe you know someone you would like to mentor – someone who reminds you of yourself when you were just getting started in your career. Or it could be a new member in your business networking group who needs someone to guide them and share the best practices for success. If so, don’t let the opportunity to be an active mentor pass you by.
They will benefit from your experience, advice, and perspective. Your encouragement can help them gain confidence along their journey. You both can realize improved skills while building a mutually beneficial, long lasting business relationship.
When you selflessly share your wealth of knowledge to help others succeed and help them avoid making the same mistakes you made, they will benefit greatly and so will you. I believe in the power of mentors to make a positive difference in other people’s stories.
Do you have a story about one of your mentors? Have you mentored someone else? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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