For every Luke Skywalker there is an Obi-Wan Kenobi (or Yoda) and for every Justin Bieber there is an Usher. These pairs each shared a mentor-mentee relationship. Without this special bond, neither party would have achieved the accomplishments (I use the term accomplishments loosely for our latter mentee subject) they are so well known for today. This imperative life relationship translates into the workplace as well.
The reported benefits of a mentor-mentee relationship are quite impressive. According Triple Creek Mentoring some of these benefits include:
- Productivity increases by 88% for managers when mentored
- 35% of employees who do not receive regular mentoring look for another job within 12 months
- 95% of mentoring participants say the mentoring experience motivates them to do their very best
- Workers with mentors earn $5K-$22K more annually than those who do not
However, the road to achieving these results can be accomplished by going down so many different paths. The question then arises, “What path would produce the smoothest journey?” From my experience, I have had both the formal mentoring experience and the “organic” subtle mentoring experience during my professional career. And I have to say I haven taken away more from my organic mentoring experience versus the formal mentoring experience.
With the organic experience I didn’t recognize myself in a mentoring-mentee relationship until someone asked me if I even had a mentor. At the time I was working at the U.S. Postal Service and found myself developing a bond with one of my supervisors without even realizing it. Whenever I needed to seek advice on a professional matter or wanted to know how to navigate the tricky waters of government employment, I instantly went to her without hesitation. I always felt like a sponge soaking up all that I could in order to better myself as an employee; it was very refreshing.
No one forced me to develop this relationship; it developed overtime and naturally. I also think a genuine trust develops when a mentor-mentee relationship isn’t held to a contract or documented down to the minute. To this day this individual is top of mind when I need to seek advice or want to learn about how I can further develop myself as a business professional.
My experience with a formal mentoring experience has also reaped various benefits by developing a sense of accountability and a defined trajectory into what I would like to take away from the experience. I also am able to possess a chronicle of my experience that I can refer back to at other times to see what I’ve gained and acquired by being active in this process.
However, if your learning style appears to be more conducive to the organic mentoring experience, there are several ways to help implement this type of environment. According to Anne Day, Founder of Company of Women, a business community organization, some of these methods include:
- Develop a “bank” of mentors. Those wanting to advance within the organization can access this bank as and when they need it.
- Bring junior and senior staff together by hearing one of the “trained” mentors talk about a topic within their realm of experience. Potential mentees can get a sense of what kind of mentor that individual would be like.
- Perhaps lower the expectations of mentoring. Position it as “befriending” rather than formal mentoring. This would perhaps lessen the pressure for parties seeking a mentoring relationship to produce proven results.
Another fun way to look at the organic mentoring relationship is by thinking you’re sitting under a tree gaining knowledge like Sir Issac Newton. The apple bops you on the head and you realize, “Hey, I’ve been mentored!” My dad used the example of asking his brigade to sit under the palm tree while he was stationed in Hawaii. Maybe if you’re in Arizona, it could be sitting under a cactus? The fun metaphors are endless.
I think the main takeaway is to look at mentoring as acquiring knowledge through an insightful conduit. How you obtain that mentoring knowledge is something that should be soothing to one’s learning style and personality. Leave a comment below to describe your mentoring style preferences.