Mentors and Mentees

Dole out wisdom. Or soak it up. There’s something to be gained in being on both sides of the relationship.

Dole out wisdom. Or soak it up. There’s something to be gained in being on both sides of the relationship.

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explores. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

~ William Arthur Ward

Many executives are quick to admit they have learned more from mentors than they have learned from their undergraduate and graduate training. It would be difficult to overemphasize the value of mentors.

Leaders are learners, and mentors can be invaluable in helping someone maximize their potential. These leaders build a cadre of people they can turn to for advice.

If you’re looking for a mentor, an excellent article, “Demystifying Mentoring,” in the February 1, 2011, issue of Harvard Business Review, outlines four myths.

Mentoring myths  

You have to find one perfect mentor. Learners seek to learn from a number of people they admire.      

Mentoring is a formal long-term relationship. Mentors change as a person’s position changes. People come into and out of our lives, and mentors do, too.

Mentoring is for “junior” people. It’s a fact that people in their 60s and even 70s seek mentors and benefit from them. People who don’t have mentors run the risk of becoming too self-absorbed, insulated from reality and clueless.    

Mentoring is something that more experienced people do out of the goodness of their hearts. Mentoring should be helpful to both parties involved.

Being a mentor to others can be immensely gratifying. The literature indicates that older mentors report how much they gain in return for mentoring others. But they also say they are surprised at how much they can learn from their mentees.  

If you’re going to be a mentor, you should:

  • Believe in the mentee, both personally and professionally.
  • See your mentee as a person, not just a “player.”
  • Be honest and unafraid to tell hard truths about yourself and your work.
  • Push the mentee to take risks, and advocate for your mentee even when you’re not there.

If you don’t have a mentor, consider meeting with someone you admire who has been successful. Ask them a series of well-thought-out questions. It’s likely that the person will be flattered that you look to them for advice and see them as a role model.

And if you don’t have a mentor and are reluctant to contact one (or even if you do), read good books and let the authors mentor you. The best leaders consume a steady diet of books. Warren Bennis, Jim Collins, Daniel Pink, the Rev. Rick Warren, Andy Andrews, Tom Peters, David Rogers, and Daniel Goleman are all worthwhile authors. They provide readers with invaluable advice—often based on extensive research—and can serve as your mentors.

To comment on this article or share your own observations, or to schedule a presentation, contact Terence Moore at 989-430-2335 or


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