Mentoring Is Not about Creating a Mini-Me

By Marie Taylor, Steve Crabb

If you have any notion that people come to mentoring to learn how to be a clone of their mentor, think again. People want to learn from the particular knowledge and experience that a mentor possesses. Whilst a mentee may look up to a mentor as a role model, the mentee doesn’t necessarily want to be just like the mentor.

The mentee is looking for opportunities to tap into the mentor’s wisdom in the hope of navigating her way through business as a more effective professional.

But why do mentors take on the mentoring role?

Most people take on a mentoring role because they want to help others by sharing what they know to inform another person’s experience in business and professional life. Mentors seek to help individuals avoid risks and mistakes and be successful. Mentors want to feel they have made a useful contribution in supporting the application of learning for the next generation of professionals coming through organisations.

If it isn’t about creating others in your image, what is really going on for mentors? What motivates a mentor? Several factors influence the decision to mentor others.

  • Legacy: Mentors want to leave their footprint behind. Contributing to the experience of others and creating an impact is a great way to leave something of yourself in the fabric of an organisation or in your professional area.

  • Learning: When mentees share their current dilemmas and seek a mentor’s counsel, the mentor learns too. It helps to keep your knowledge current. You realize how professional requirements are changing and the ways that business applications are developing.

  • Self-esteem: Having others appreciate your input and seek your wisdom can be a great boost to your sense of self-worth and personal pride. Mentors enjoy the feel-good factor of making a difference to another colleague.

  • Status and peer recognition: Any publicly respected role you acquire brings a degree of status with it. Being a mentor adds to the CV and gives you a talking point in response to the ‘who are you and what do you do?’ question. It enriches your description of yourself and your self-concept.

  • Confidence: Engaging with new things and reminding yourself how useful your knowledge and experience are to others can really boost your confidence and the confidence of your mentee. Who wouldn’t want some of that?

In mentoring you’re not trying to create people like you, but you are getting something in return for your effort and contribution. It’s a win-win.