In a recent article, I tackled the need for leaders to be “teachable.” And we certainly must be. But leaders must also be teaching — or, in my words, leaders must be a mentor.
Your followers today are the future leaders of tomorrow. As leaders, we have an obligation to those who will come behind us, or in other words, our future to train and mentor tomorrow’s leaders today. The pace of change today is so swift that we must mentor and coach our young leaders through these times. “Trial by fire” may just not be an option in our organizations.
How do we develop and keep the best young leaders?
The answer is to use a formal or even an informal mentoring program. By using an effective mentoring program, you and I can help develop today’s leadership talent and potential into tomorrow’s proven and tested leaders. Organizations that leverage the leadership and experience of senior staff can develop, maintain, and retain the talent that they may already have in-house.
What are some things to consider as a leadership mentor?
Even though you may already be inspired by this article to become a mentor and although you may want to jump right in with both feet, I invite you to pause for a second to think about a couple of practical considerations:
How will I choose who to mentor? — You probably already have your eye on someone in your organization or within your circle of influence. Offer yourself to them and watch how quickly they will accept your offer.
Formal or informal? — I don’t care! Just do it! Go with your personality style or the style of the one who you will mentor. And each person will require a different style.This is a great question to discuss the first time you get together.
Frequency of session? — How much time can you commit to this relationship? How much time can they? Here is another great question to discuss at that first meeting. Once a month should probably be the longest interval initially. Somewhere between weekly and monthly is usually best.
Length of session? — How long will you spend with one another in each session? Half an hour? An hour? The answer to this is much like the previous and will vary from time to time. Just leave yourselves time for some chit-chat and small talk each time to get comfortable and set a relaxed tone for the weightier matters that will arise.
Duration of relationship? – How long this process will last will also vary. It will take time to build trust and confidence with the one that you are mentoring. Establish an initial duration and revisit that decision from time to time. Shortened relationships don’t necessarily mean that the relationship is not a good and valuable thing. To the contrary. You may have a highly motivated person that you are mentoring and they may have absorbed all that they can from you. If so, release them and encourage them to seek another mentor to take them farther than yo can.
What to do when it is over? — Do you want to be available after the “formal” sessions? Are you willing to be a long-term resource for the young leader?
One final consideration, Confidentiality! — You must have priest & penitent or lawyer & client levels of confidentiality between you. Nothing will poison the relationship like a breach of that confidentiality by either party. Think about and discuss your approach to any confidential business or personal information that may come to light during your sessions If you are each from different or competing organizations, then think of ways to speak about general concepts and situations while maintaining the confidentiality of each of your individual organizations.
What is the key message?
We as leaders have an obligation and a responsibility to pass along our knowledge and experience to the generation that follows us. It is almost a sacred duty. In fact, in a slightly different context, it is a sacred duty to lead the next generation. So, seek out one (or a few) young leaders with potential and offer yourself to them. Offer to be a mentor.