Mentoring: Gaining Wisdom Without Risk

Posted by Joseph Sherren on February 8, 2016

A coach or mentor who encourages you, and sincerely wants you to do your best, is the best asset any manager can have. I found that out the hard way many years ago. As a new manager at a Fortune 500 company I took the attitude that the reason I got promoted over the others was because I was smarter, faster, more decisive, and had more energy than everyone else.

Although I (and my mother) thought I was a pretty nice guy, my staff began to dislike me. They resented the fact that I was always imparting my wisdom (not listening to them), maintaining control (which I thought was expected), showing them how to be more efficient (without understanding their processes), and charged off to get things done (without asking for their ideas). I was a walking disaster.

Thankfully, a senior executive from another division who had taken a liking to me saw what was happening, and took me under his wing. He told me the story about an old bull and young bull, and explained how and why my behaviour was not working. For the next few years, he became an amazing guide who set me up to succeed, and I received the country’s “manager of the year” award two years later.

For a mentor-mentee relationship to work, you first have to believe that not everything you learned in school helps you become a good leader. As well, no matter how accomplished you are in your profession does not mean you are an effective manager.

There are so many great benefits to a mentoring relationship:

  1. Your mentor will have a history gained over many years that can shortcut your learning curve.
  2. They not only have wisdom and business skills, but know what behaviours are required to help get you to where you want.
  3. They can connect you with meetings, events and people important to your future.
  4. They have a perspective that comes from a much broader arena than just your immediate environment.
  5. You will receive a kinder, gentler course correction, instead of repercussions from the boss when you do mess up.
  6. Everyone, at all levels and positions of authority, needs a trusted, sounding board when taking an innovative approach to problem solving or implementing a new initiative.

As well, there are benefits to your organization:

  • It creates a culture of learning and collaboration.
  • It fast tracks the learning for people who are in the management succession plan.
  • It enables an informal career development process.
  • It creates happier and more engaged employees.

But, be careful who you choose. You want someone who is focused on helping you, rather than building their own ego. Krista Walsh of KC Collections and a rising star professional speaker says: “A mentor will believe in you, even when you don’t necessarily believe in yourself. They give you confidence and help you overcome self-doubt.”

Krista is part of the Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce and engaged in their formal mentoring program. As an entrepreneur, she believes this program is one of the best career decisions she has made.

Having a trusted mentor is critical in every field – whether in sports (a great coach), a skilled trade, or a corporate environment – but especially for new business owners and managers.

My suggestion for all managers this week: Whether you are an experienced business leader or a developing manager, check out organizations like the Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce where you can learn from those who have gone before, or you can contribute and assist others in their development.


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