Pop culture is a treasure trove of the mentor archetype. Think Mr. Miyagi to Daniel, Professor Charles Xavier to the X-Men, and Yoda to Luke Skywalker. These teachers and leaders have walked alongside their students to help chart their course, teach them in their failures, and support them in their heroes’ journeys.
In the same way, real life mentors play a key role in the professional development of their colleagues. They pour into the lives of others to help propel them to the next level of their careers and even in areas outside of work. Good mentors establish mutual respect with their mentees, provide meaningful feedback, and strive to keep growing themselves.
With the rise of automation, cloud computing, and all things Internet, workers–particularly the Millennial workforce–need mentors more than ever. The mentor and mentee relationship takes work just like any other relationship, but the human to human connection is irreplaceable and worth the effort.
Benefits to Mentoring
Not all business leaders recognize that mentoring will yield dividends not just for the mentees, but for the mentors themselves. Mentoring or coaching allows the mentor to build a legacy and pass on lessons they have acquired over the years to a potential successor. For someone who has been in the game for a while, taking someone under their wing could reinvigorate their own careers and avoid plateauing. It truly is a wonderful exchange, so how does one become a good mentor?
Ways to be a Better Mentor
* Establish Mutual Trust and Respect. In a study conducted by Deloitte, results show that “Respondents do not think highly of leaders’ impact on society, their commitment to improving the world, or their trustworthiness.” This is huge. Millennials in your workplace need to see that you are proactively improving the quality of life around you and that you can be trustworthy. You can do this by pursuing your passions, supporting a cause you truly believe in, being true to your word, and many other ways. Living a life of integrity both in and out of the workplace makes a great impression on your millennial and Gen Z team members.
Once you gain the respect of your constituents, remember to give that same respect to them. Respect their ideas, put yourself in their shoes, and let them know that you are on their side even when they fail; this isn’t to encourage repeated mistakes, but a way to communicate that you are their advocate.
* Mentor, Not Manager. It is important that business leaders do not simply manage their team in a detached manner. As the first point above suggests, millennials need someone who doesn’t just tell them what the rules of the game are–they need someone who is inspiring and can lead a team without pulling teeth. A manager will dictate; a mentor will teach by example. A manager will hover and be singular in their methods; a mentor allows creativity to flourish, lets someone make their own mistakes, learns from them, and supports them in the process.
* Communicate Well. Communication is a pillar of any good relationship, including those of mentors and mentees. Provide constructive feedback to your mentees and welcome feedback from them as well. Once you’ve established mutual trust and respect, your mentee will be more receptive to what you have to say and your lessons will stick better.
* Lifelong Learning. Remember that learning doesn’t stop in the classroom. Keep bettering and challenging yourself. Again, how you approach your own career and how you live your life speak volumes to your younger peers. This way, you will always have something new to share. In the same way, recognize that you can learn something from your millennial team members, too. When you establish mutual respect and have solid communication, the result is a positive and great learning environment.
Millennials and Gen Z need mentors not just for the day when they reach the top, but here and now as they occupy your workspace. Respect and trust each other, provide feedback, and continuously learn from one another. You and your business will be better for it.