High performers almost always credit good mentors for their development and success. I have had many mentors who have influenced me over the years. While I learned a lot from my supervisors, some of my best mentors were not my bosses.
Ideally, every manager should mentor people on their team. They should be good role models and trusted advisors. But they may not necessarily be your mentor.
Mentors are rarely one person. If your manager is not your mentor, it actually can be a good thing. Here are some common misconceptions related to managers and mentoring:
- Mentoring as a manager is a different form of mentoring.
There is a power dynamic at play that is not present in other mentoring relationships. That’s why choosing mentors who do not have a direct line of authority over you makes sense.
- Mentors don’t need to have performed your job to mentor you.
Certainly, an understanding of your job is important and gives a mentor credibility, but that doesn't mean they had to have actually been in your particular position. Mentorship should go beyond the tasks of the job to help you understand yourself — your strengths, weaknesses and potential. Micromanagement actually prohibits growth.
- Mentors should be really good at something you want to develop.
Your manager is probably really good at a lot of things, but may not be as skilled in the area that you want to grow in. Pay close attention to people who are astute at something you want to improve about yourself. That can be a skill for your job or a broader competency in finance, communication, confidence, time management or work-life balance.
- Gaining quick feedback from someone doesn’t make them your mentor.
Mentoring is not a performance review. Mentors go beyond the work of the day to help individuals explore careers, set goals, build relationships and think bigger. It takes investment over a period of time.
What do good mentors do?
- Anticipate needs.
- Ask good questions.
- Focus conversations on developing your strengths and augmenting weaknesses.
- Proactively give support and guidance.
- Inspire reflection and action.
- Serve as consultants, counselors and cheerleaders in your life.
Mentoring is a dynamic relationship that is based on mutual trust and respect. Don’t limit yourself to a manager. It’s not fair to your manager – or you. Look around, recognize mentors in a variety of areas and you will be better because of it.