WHY IS MENTORING IMPORTANT?

A friend of mine called me one day to tell me that one of the former employees of Pivara Skopje was promoted to a General Manager position in another brewery also part of the Heineken system. I was glad to hear that and I recalled the beginnings of this person’s career many years ago. I remembered the day she was hired as a market developer in Pivara Skopje. Motiva was part of the recruitment process.

I thought to myself actually nothing comes from the sky. She has worked hard to get where she is now. She is smart and intelligent and has very good communication skills. What stands out in her rich portfolio of skills is the clarity of expression, and simple and brief communication so everyone can understand her.

In her early professional beginnings, I enjoyed sharing my experience and knowledge with her on many of the trainings and meetings organized at the Education Center of Pivara Skopje. I might have been her first mentor. This got me thinking about the importance of mentors and why every young employee needs to find one.

Mentor is one of the characters in Homer’s very famous epic poem the Odyssey. When Odysseus, the King of Ithaca went to fight in the historical Trojan War, he entrusted the care of his kingdom to Mentor. Mentor was the teacher of Odysseus’s’ son, Telemachus.

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines mentor as “an experienced person who advises and helps somebody with less experience over a period of time”.

A mentor is an individual, always more experienced, who helps and guides another individual’s development. A mentor is a person who gives advice and guides someone who is less experienced and successful i.e., a mentee or protégé. This guidance is not done for personal gain.

Mentoring usually is a relationship in which a more experienced colleague uses his or her greater knowledge and understanding of the work to support the development of a younger or inexperienced member of staff. A strong mentoring relationship is built on mutual respect and collaboration and the commitment to the professional development of one or both of its participants. In typical mentoring relationship, one participant has more experience, skills, knowledge than the other. Usually, strong mentoring relationships provide an opportunity for both parties to learn from each other through the development of a caring and respectful partnership.

Some people might think mentoring and coaching are similar or even the same thing. But, they’re not. Coaching is short term, high performance-driven and task-oriented, focused on some specific skills and goals, while mentoring is always long-term, development-driven, not only for the current job, but also for the future, and relationship-oriented in which the mentee shares real issues that impact his or her success. In coaching, the immediate manager is a partner in coaching, while in mentoring, the immediate manager is only indirectly involved.

Since I am involved in Pivara Skopje’s activities, I have witnessed the great attention paid by the company to permanent education and learning, coaching and mentoring. Some of the employees are very experienced and each of the newcomers, young employees without experience can find their own mentor who can be of a great support in their career advancement, bringing synergy at the work place.

Mentoring is both a gift and a privilege. To be asked by someone to mentor them means that this person sees you as a role model and believes your experience and wisdom can help him/her grow and be more successful. Mentoring someone has the potential to be one of the most rewarding and satisfying things you’ll ever do in your career. If you have been asked by some of the new employees to be their mentor – don’t be just an okay mentor – be an excellent mentor! Be that person who will make a difference in a person’s life!

What does an excellent mentor do? In contacts with students and participants of our educational programs, I am always curious to understand how they perceive excellence in mentors. Here are some of the characteristics most often mentioned. An excellent mentor is always tuned-in and focused. An excellent mentor has the willingness to listen. Excellent mentors are always showing honest and sincere interest in their mentees. They know how to encourage mentees to open up. They maintain eye contact, often paraphrasing, asking questions to learn more what the mentee is trying to ask and they always provide feedback. Their feedback is specific, sincere, and on time.

A good mentor is someone who supports and encourages the mentee to reach for higher goals, to take the next step and to push him/her to succeed in his/her job environment.

Good mentor is the one who is experienced in an area in which the mentee needs a little bit of extra help because the mentee may lack the knowledge or experience. Mentors are doers and role models, although they are not perfect. They focus on the growth and development of the mentee. They know how to build trust through communication as a two-way process, always keeping promises and sharing common ground.

Excellent mentors are aware that not all mentees are the same, and therefore they rely on different approaches and situational leadership.

Whenever faced with a new employee in the organization who lacks working experience, the primary task of every good mentor is to help the new employee fit quickly into the organization’s cultural and social norms and in time, help him/her grow in his/her current position and further development. The mentor should provide to the mentee an insight in the big picture, not just the details.

I always encourage our students and all young employees to search for a good mentor.

A good mentor will help the mentee stay focused on his/her goals, he will help him/her pay attention and to stay on track. In case young employees get frustrated and want to give up, mentors are there to push them harder and keep them going. Mentoring is very beneficial, as researches show that employees who experience mentoring are retained by the organizations, learn more quickly, and are assimilated into the company culture more effectively and efficiently.

Each meeting with your mentor or mentee needs to start with updates regarding the items which the mentor recommended during the previous meeting. Mentees need to come to every meeting well-prepared, sometimes they need to take notes and they should be active listeners always, always prepared to ask questions in order to clarify some of their insights. Mentees should appreciate the time spent with their mentors and never try to steal more of their attention than it is necessary. They need to be clear about what they are doing and what they need, and should always thank the mentors for their time. Mentees should not be concerned only with themselves, as mentors are human beings too and they also expect feedback for their expertise.

If an employee would like to find a good mentor, the first thing he/she needs to do is define a list of his/her goals for the mentoring relationship. The mentee needs to search for available information and to list prospective mentors. Then select one or two mentors who meet your own goals and approach them to request a meeting. Good mentees will explain their goals and current situation and will have a set of prepared questions ready to ask their prospective mentor. At the end of the meeting, it is very important that the mentees thank their potential mentors, or to send them a thank you note. If the mentee and the mentor have a common understanding for establishing a mentorship, then a written agreement should be concluded to show that both sides are serious about their commitment. Whether the relationship is deemed formal or informal, the goal of mentoring is to provide career advice, as well as professional and personal enrichment.

Talented employees like exciting challenges and great development opportunities. They very often leave the organizations just because they are bored. Losing talented employees and wasting talent costs companies money. Mentoring is a key to attracting and retaining talented employees. Mentorship, delivered across organization, shows that you care about employees.

From my personal experience as a partnering company to Pivara Skopje, I can say that the company is taking great care for the development of its employees, providing training opportunities, challenging projects and assignments, feedback, coaching and mentoring. Young employees at Pivara Skopje reach out searching for a mentor, for someone from the very experienced staff who will be able to open their horizons and show them that the sky has no limits. Have you reached out to find your mentor?

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