Many of us consider ourselves mentors, someone with knowledge and experience to motivate and propel another person to greatness. It generally starts because we identify with something in another person. In fact, we often see them as younger versions of ourselves.
Think of someone in your life you considered to be a mentor. Chances are they were someone who helped you see things in yourself you might not have otherwise seen. They were probably able to be perfectly honest with you… even when it hurt.
The other little-known fact is a true mentor will have no personal agenda other than to help you grow and succeed. They also know the mentor secret: you must let go of your ego.
Don’t get me wrong, the ego serves a very important role. It inspires us to take our first steps in life, navigate the school playground, engage in our first adult debate, get our first job and then our second and then our third. The ego helped us climb the proverbial career ladder as high as we chose to climb.
The ego teaches us to recover from failure and it loves to celebrate our success. The ego is a powerful and necessary tool in life, especially during the evolution of our career. However, there is one thing the ego will almost certainly continue to prevent us from being — a good mentor.
This all may seem counterintuitive but it’s pretty basic, really. Knowledge is power. The ego needs power. The ego gains power by continuing to gain knowledge. 1+1=2
Yet, to be an effective mentor, you must be prepared to do the one thing your ego does not like. Share your knowledge. Be aware, the ego will go to great lengths to protect its position of knowledge. I’m sure you have seen this play out right in front of you time and time again. It masks itself as jealousy, misinformation, anger, frustration, gossip, etc.
Want to be a mentor? Ask yourself five questions:
- Are you willing to be challenged? If just reading this question makes you panic, it’s safe to say you probably aren’t quite ready. To effectively mentor, you must be open to sharing information with the understanding it will be questioned. Can you envision your ideas, how you developed them, and why you developed them being questioned? If not, it’s okay. Your ego is just defending your knowledge and mentorship is probably not a good fit.
- Are you personally in a good place of achievement? This is very important because if you are still on a hard climb to the top of the ladder, then the ego is very much still in play, and rightly so. It also means it’s probably not the best time to be a mentor. During the hard climb, you are busy gaining and protecting your own knowledge, and it tends to be a more difficult time to switch gears and be an effective and supportive mentor.
- Do you honestly care about the success of the person you are mentoring? If not, please don’t do it. I often see a person get “chosen” as a mentor and because they were chosen they don’t feel like they are able to say no. For the love of God, if you are not a willing participant, say no! Being a mentor is serious business and can be valuable to both participants, but it will not be worthwhile if not done from a genuine place of interest and integrity. You must see something in this person you identify with, believe in and/or admire. You must feel strongly they will benefit from your skills and experience.
- Do they want a mentor? Not everyone wants to be mentored and just because everything lines up for you, it is not always a two-way street. Assuming someone needs you as their mentor without knowing it for sure is a clear sign your ego is in charge. If there is any question about their commitment, take a step back. Check in with your ego, check in with your mentee, and make sure there is alignment.
- Do you need to get credit? Be honest here. If work is produced and you only had a mentorship role in it, will it bother you if you don’t get any credit? Look, there is nothing wrong with wanting to receive credit for your work. But if you choose to be a mentor, you are making a conscious choice to shift credit away from yourself. Be ready for that.
If you are realizing mentorship isn’t for you, at least right now, wonderful. You are probably starting or in the prime of your career and accomplishing a great deal in life. Congratulations and good luck!
If you are chomping at the bit to be a mentor, wonderful. There are many people just waiting for someone to notice them, be interested in them, see something they believe in and reach out a helpful hand. This is an opportunity to offer your gift of knowledge to another person for shared success. This is an opportunity to give the gift of mentorship.
Whether the timing is right or all wrong to be a mentor, know you make a difference in people’s lives every day. Make it count!