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Posted by on Jan 27, 2014

Mentoring: Something to Celebrate

MentorDid you know that, in addition to being National Blood Donor Month, January is also National Mentoring Month? For those of you already in the know, that’s awesome. For everyone else, consider yourself warned. Mentoring is making a comeback in leadership development, and for good reason. Jumping on the bandwagon could change your professional life or the trajectory of your organization. And, there is no needle involved. Promise.

Mentoring has been around forever if you think about it. The term “Mentor” comes from Greek mythology and has been used since then to refer to individuals who guide and teach us. The resurgence of mentoring in leadership development has been steadily building steam over the past decade, but the conditions for its return seem to be converging:

It Keeps You Moving Forward When Formal Advancement Isn’t Possible
Let’s be honest, the past few years have been tumultuous from a jobs perspective. Many organizations have downsized, and those still employed are juggling extra responsibilities to maintain business as usual. The Federal Government has a budget (big win) and the stock market is on a tear, but jobs growth remains relatively slow. As a result, formal opportunities for growth and advancement are still harder to come by in both the private and public sectors.

You cannot sit idle waiting for hiring conditions to improve and big training budgets to be reinstated. Ask any leadership expert and they’ll tell you it’s essential to stay focused on growing and investing in your own leadership development—relentlessly. Mentoring is something you can do on an individual or organizational level to keep yourself or others moving forward in the absence of clear promotion opportunities.

Mentoring is Taking on Exciting, New Forms
When you think of mentoring, your mind’s eye probably pictures a seasoned leader taking a young, promising protégé with tons of energy and ambition under his or her wing. No doubt it still happens in that way, and with great success; however, mentoring is being achieved through many different types of interactions between those that have experiences and expertise to offer and those seeking to learn from them.

Agencies across the Federal Government, for example, are piloting flash mentoring, group mentoring, and electronic mentoring. The easiest way to describe flash mentoring is a modified form of speed dating, where the mentees have multiple brief meetings with a variety of leaders. Group mentoring is particularly effective in helping a group to solve a defined problem, and electronic mentoring is bringing mentors and mentees together who are located in different geographic locations. 

Younger Workers Want to be Connected
Millenials build social networks naturally, almost subconsciously. They excel at connecting themselves to others in the world around them, and it may (or may not) surprise some to know that one connection emerging leaders are actively seeking in the workplace is a trusted mentor. The beauty of mentoring is that it can work just as well informally as it does through a formal program. The magic is in the match. Younger workers have already recognized that important caveat, and are focused on finding mentors that will invest both time and energy in a lasting mentoring relationship.

So, Happy National Mentoring Month! The month is coming to a close. Whether you are a potential mentor or mentee, or in a position to bring mentoring to your organization, it’s worth revisiting. You never know what might happen if you find the right match…

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