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Why You Should Mentor

By Matt Collins

I was struck this week by two sobering statistics I saw related to mentoring:

  1. A DDI study revealed 63 percent of women have never had a formal mentor.
  2. There are consistently over 100 children waiting to be matched with a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters (an organization I have long supported) here in Pittsburgh. The number nationwide is, of course, much, much higher.

In both cases, the organizations have demonstrated a clear business case for mentoring relationships. Big Brothers Big Sisters says their mentorships lead to nearly halving the number of youth who start using illegal drugs, while drastically increasing the number of students who pursue college degrees (two in three children in the program say their “Big” played a significant role in their decision to apply for college). Meanwhile, in the DDI study cited above, 67 percent of women said mentorships are highly important to their career advancement.

These statistics indicate a dual need for people to pursue opportunities to serve as a mentor and to actively seek mentors of their own. Yet excuses often rule the day. This post addresses the question, "Why mentor?" as well as common objections to mentoring.

Let's get started.

Why mentor?

The seemingly obvious answer to, "Why mentor?" is, "To make a difference for someone." Yet an experienced mentor will tell you the “someone” ends up being him or herself. This isn’t surprising when you consider the many attributes of a good mentor that directly relate to leadership effectiveness. Being a mentor helps you:

Exercise Your Emotional Intelligence—As a mentor, you will learn to keep your emotional radar on and become more proficient at gauging the emotional state of yourself and others. This will serve you well as emotional intelligence is a key differentiator for career advancement when IQ and technical skills are equal.

Empathize Deeply—When your emotional radar picks up on the hopes, despairs, and struggles of your mentee, you must be able to react appropriately, recognize and validate their feelings, and make them feel heard, understood, and safe. Once you begin to apply empathy within your mentoring relationship, you will likely start using it with your work group and family as well, which will make you a better leader.

Shift Your Perspective—Working with a mentee will teach you to look at things through their eyes. What is it they want to accomplish? How do they view themselves? What is their environment like? What's their history? At work, taking others' perspectives can make you a better influencer and a more compelling salesperson.

Why You Should MentorCoach, Develop, and Motivate—If your mentee was a sports team, you would be the coach, personal trainer, cheerleader, and the mom who brings a bowl of Campbell's Chunky soup all wrapped into one. Guiding your mentee to consistently set and attain goals will make you more effective at nurturing talent across the workplace.

This is all great if you're interested in your growth as an informal or formal leader, but maybe you're already an emotionally intelligent, empathetic leader. Maybe you have years of experience coaching, influencing, and developing others. If so, you are already a great candidate to be a mentor. And if you take the plunge, you are opening the door to these additional benefits:

  1. It's a meaningful way to invest your time.
  2. It makes someone else feel good.
  3. It makes you feel good.

That said, in my efforts to recruit mentors for non-profits, I've encountered many excuses. I think they're mostly born of fear. My request to you is don't let fear-based excuses rule the day. Here are some of the most frequent excuses I hear, along with my answers:

Long story short, mentoring is a kind, meaningful, rewarding, and enriching way to spend your time. So, what's stopping you?

For more on mentorship, click on the links throughout this article and keep an eye out for my upcoming posts, in which I will address why you should have a mentor, how to find a mentor, and how to navigate a successful mentoring relationship.

Matt CollinsMatt Collins is a client manager who collaborates with organizations to select, develop, and promote exceptional leaders. As an adventure-seeker, Matt is always eager to tackle new projects at work, as well as new activities outside of work that recently include archery tag and parkour. What should Matt try next? Send your recommendations to

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Posted: 19 May, 2017,
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