Mentors Are Going Extinct — But We Need Them More Than Ever
July 2, 2019

Mentors Are Going Extinct — But We Need Them More Than Ever

by Brian de Haaff

Where have all the mentors gone? I think this is a question people are asking today. There was a time when formal mentorship was a fundamental part of many organizations. But not anymore. So folks try networking events and cold-messaging on LinkedIn. I know I get many such messages each day and I do my best to respond. It makes you wonder if the mentor-mentee relationship has gone extinct — or is at least on its way out.

Real mentors are hard to find — but we need expert guidance now more than ever in today’s uncertain world.

And yet if you have had a mentor of some sort in the past, then you know how important these relationships can be to future success. More experienced leaders in your field can provide valuable advice — how to navigate challenges at work, grow your professional skills, and achieve career goals.

Knowing this, there is an even more important question to ask. Are you willing to be that person for someone else? This does not require a formal program or label. It simply means taking an interest in someone else’s growth and doing what you can to spur them on.

If you are in a position with any kind of influence — whether you manage people directly or you have worked in your field for a while and have deep knowledge — it is your responsibility to encourage those around you and help them learn.

It is possible that you are doing this without even realizing. Sometimes you do not see the positive impact you have on people.

Mentors might not exist anymore — at least not according to the old definition. Instead, we all have a chance to inspire teammates and lead by example. Here is how:

Understand goals
It is hard to give real guidance if you are not clear on where the other person wants to go. So talk to them. Learn about their background, interests, and what they want to accomplish. Discovering their career aspirations will set the tone for all the advice you will give them in the future — and pushes them closer to who they want to become.

Actively listen
Being a good listener is a given for any mentor. But you also need to be an active participant. To make sure you understand what the other person is saying, summarize what you are hearing and ask follow-up questions. Be curious about uncovering the true meaning behind the words and how you may be able to help.

Spot opportunities
As you get a better understanding of what the person wants and where they are at, look for ways that they might be able to grow into that ambition. This might mean identifying a project they could take on or thinking about another person you could make a connection with. Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is not to give advice but to make an introduction.

Reject “niceness”
Being a strong mentor is not about coddling. Do not be afraid to give honest, direct feedback — even when it might not be what the other person wants to hear. If you do so with kindness, they will likely respect and trust your guidance all the more.

Be available
Above all, make yourself available. You do not need to have regular meetings with the person or spend hours every week. But be willing to give up some of your own time to help another person succeed. Helping others always requires some sort of sacrifice, but the reward is meaningful. So be generous with your time and knowledge.

There is no easy path to success. But you can help make the journey a bit smoother for someone else.

Adopting a mindset of serving others is especially important in our world right now. We are marred by deep division and competition. And it is a privilege to be able to use your influence — however large or small — in a positive way.

Have you benefited from the help of a mentor?

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Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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