The concept of mentor first appeared in Homer’s Odyssey, and since then has grown into a widely talked about concept. Many of us seek mentors, especially during the beginning of our career. Many of us act as mentors, helping others on their journey to greatness.
What I’ve learned through my mentorship practice is that not all engagements are the same. There are three distinct flavors:
- Flash Mentor – You encounter someone that lacks a piece of information you possess. You give it on the spot, without any requirements for follow up. This is my favorite flavor, and I practice it often. To many, this is called knowledge sharing. It’s fast, friendly and can lay the foundation for a working relationship.
- Program Mentor – You are either asked to be someone’s mentor or you spot a hero that needs some wisdom for his or her journey. This is a more formal situation, where the mentor clearly spells out the objectives and curriculum. When Stanley Marcus Jr. mentored me, this was his style. He made it clear that I was going to learn leadership in the context of fostering customer-relationships at Yahoo. Our program would be delivered over ten lunches, and I would have homework. This is a great way to go beyond sharing information and instead, sharing your perspectives.
- Life Long Mentor – In this case, the relationship never ends. Usually, you have significantly more life experience than the mentee, and have developed a personal interest in his or her success. You want to provide ongoing encouragement and if possible, be a part of his or her journey. In my case, my grandmother Billye served that role. One should be very careful about taking this on, though, as it’s a big promise to make.
Pick your mentees wisely. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. The best time to deliver Flash Mentorship is when the opportunity presents itself. Carpe Diem! In many cases, you start out as a Flash Mentor and over time, you take on either Program or Life Long mentees.
All of us should practice one flavor of mentorship every single week. If you haven’t found the opportunity, you either aren’t looking hard enough OR you aren’t feeding your mind enough to share.