Whether in a small or large business, mentor and mentee roles provide mutual benefits for guidance and support that can foster promising career opportunities. One need look no further than some of today’s most impactful leaders to gauge the impact of a great mentor -- Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had Warren Buffett.
A Harvard Business Review survey found that 84 percent of CEOs with formal mentor relationships were able to avoid costly mistakes and become efficient in their roles more quickly. Further, 71 percent of CEOs surveyed also found that their mentors helped improve their performance.
Mentees also bestow powerful benefits upon their mentors, too. Research from Boston University supports the notion that mentoring enhances business executives’ leadership and management skills while increasing their knowledge and insights.
Business leaders and mentees who foster two-way partnerships can positively contribute to each other’s professional development and their company’s overall success. In terms of career growth, here are a few benefits which the mentor/mentee connection provides:
1. Learn How to Collaborate and Network Better
Establishing external business networks can afford both the mentor and mentee more collaborative support and new opportunities, ultimately helping to bolster your bottom line.
Famous pop artist Andy Warhol, for example, helped his mentee, Jean-Michel Basquiat gain connections to other neo-expressionist artists and patrons, ultimately leading him to global recognition. In return, Basquiat gave Warhol new and diverse artists to collaborate with while evolving his vision and talents into new areas.
Within organizations, beneficial mentorship relationships can create strong collaboration skills between various departments which allow for cohesive management, cross-department communication and employee productivity. As a mentor, take the time to educate, share ideas and ask for input on projects from your charges. When mentees feel valued and supported, they’ll be happier to be a part of the team, and more productive as well. Mentors may also find that the ideas and feedback mentees contribute fosters insightful, trusting workflows that help emerging entrepreneurs advance their business ideas.
Executives who exhibit consistent mentoring and coaching behaviors can help create highly collaborative teams that work more efficiently and engage in a more positive workplace atmosphere. The motivation to connect with team members and increase expertise can also extend to building professional networks. A successful mentor/mentee relationship not only includes engaged, flexible and authentic partnerships, but it also helps the mentee expand upon their communication skills so they can make professional network connections to which they might not otherwise have access.
2. Gain Insight into Diverse Perspectives
Adaptability and self-awareness are crucial for anyone’s professional development. While mentees can use a mentorship relationship to learn how to develop their professional skills and the necessary mindsets to execute everyday business decisions, mentors also stand to benefit by reskilling themselves to stay relevant in the changing digital economy.
As both the mentor and mentee expose themselves to different mindsets, diverse perspectives help them create and innovate. As Forbes mentions, experienced advice helps the mentee’s career blossom. Likewise, inexperienced entrepreneurs can benefit by utilizing their board of advisors to provide examples and solutions during their company’s growth stages.
A Harvard University study also demonstrates that a mentor/mentee relationship helps both parties diversify their thought patterns and practices: a mentor experiences new perspectives from future members of the profession, while the mentee can absorb insights in defining business strategies and outcomes in their field.
Through open communication, both can understand major issues surrounding a leadership and an employee mindset. Besides, learning new perspectives provides you with the insight to maintain your company’s competitive edge and relevance, especially for smaller companies needing to cater to market demands and niche consumers.
3. Enhance Interpersonal Leadership Traits
Oprah’s mentor, the famous author/poet Maya Angelou, demonstrated how important humanistic qualities are to the role of a leader. Angelou taught Oprah that professional relationships depend not on who a person says they are, but how they act toward you and others.
Of course, professional relationships are incredibly nuanced, and it often takes years of experience to identify the right response to a difficult and unprecedented situation. The mentorship relationship serves that role, guiding mentees toward an effective response, whether it’s an assertive justification when finalizing a business deal or a meditative gesture when dealing with a stressful client.
For mentors, the value in guiding interpersonal effectiveness comes down to the development of their own leadership skills.
UPenn researchers found that the digital age has created new leadership styles ranging from the commander — a leader who gives orders and tells others how to accomplish it — to the collaborator role — a leader who works hand-in-hand with customers and employees. Mentors should comprise both these styles so they can act as the inspiration and an equal for their employees and mentees.
Through the steady practice -- and teaching -- of key interpersonal skills, mentors stand to benefit by confirming which leadership skills resonate best as they guide their mentees. This is no small feat -- it could mean becoming more transparent with employees, fostering inclusive decision-making or incorporating employee feedback into managerial roles.
Oprah recalls that Angelou said, “Your legacy is every life you’ve touched..it’s every person you’ve harmed or helped.” Indeed, a helpful, two-way value exchange is essential for building a healthy mentor/mentee relationship. With consistent effort, this symbiotic association acts as a catalyst that expands learning, work ethic, leadership and, ultimately, your company’s bottom line.