Good mentors do more than just motivate, they help drive results.
Trust me, I should know. With more than 14 years of experience playing basketball including club, college and, most recently, playing professionally in the Middle East, I know not only the significance of having good mentors but the growth that comes from these critical relationships.
On and off the court, mentorship means comradery. It gives people a sense of community and belonging. Workplace studies have shown that the most positive work cultures have a built-in sense of belonging, with good support structures in place at every level of the organization. People are at their most productive when they not only understand what their job function is, but when they also know how their roles fit in within the greater ecosystem of the business. They feel a sense of both self and purpose.
Mentorship is Good for Business
According to a survey conducted by Deloitte on Millennials and what it takes to win over this next generation of leaders, of those planning to stay with their employer for more than five years, 68 percent were twice as likely to have a mentor than those who did not (32%). Eighty-one percent were happy with their mentor, and of those Millennials planning to leave their employer within two years, only 61 percent were happy with the mentoring they received.
Not to mention, more than 80 percent of professionals on LinkedIn stated that they either wanted to have a mentor or wanted to be a mentor to others – which is why, in late 2017 LinkedIn launched their Career Advice portal. So, not only is mentorship good for business but people on both sides of the relationship – both those being mentored and those providing the mentoring – want it.
Mentorship has proven to increase employee retention and pave the way for career pathing – an essential vision to be maintaining and contributing to, especially in a job market full of new opportunities.
Mentorship: The Give/Take to Get Better
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
In a world where things are constantly changing – especially in IT – it’s nice to have someone in your corner, someone who has already “been there and done that,” so to speak. In the technology industry, where I’ve been applying my team-minded approach and dedication to continuous improvement and learning for nearly three years, the basics of what I learned and continue to teach in basketball still apply.
Help. Guidance. Direction.
Mentors show us areas where we need to make improvements. Their viewpoint provides an objective, but also highly relevant, assessment of skill, as they are able to benchmark performance and relate it to their own. A mentor’s constructive criticism also provides a great opportunity to become more self-aware and to course correct in areas where there is an opportunity to do so.
One of the biggest life lessons I’ve learned from playing and being coached in basketball is about the power and importance of moderating ego. Everyone has one, but how you learn to harness your own is one-part discovery and one-part maintenance. This is probably the biggest value of mentorship, in that it provides regular self-reflection.
In individual contributing roles within IT, it can become easy to develop, build, code or function in a vacuum. When left unchecked, these environments can result in little-to-no self-assessment, and there is most certainly less opportunity to stop and get better. As people continue along in their careers, the ‘rites of passage,’ established benchmarks or barriers to entry start to diminish. We get comfortable. And this is what mentorship helps us to avoid.
Mentorship provides perspective, and perspective comes from experience.
In an effort to avoid making the same mistakes they once did, mentors bring with them an abundance of experience that others can benefit from learning from. It positions the next generation – whether basketball player or engineer – to be better. But this level of improvement – and evolution – can only take place when there is a concerted effort to learn from those who have already done it before and gained the experience.
Today, in addition to being an advisor at Triple Crown where I get to consult to businesses making IT hires, I am also a high school basketball coach. In my experience, no matter the industry, position on the team or role in the business, where you’ve been or where you’re going, there is always an opportunity to learn from the people who’ve done what you’re doing.
Experience is priceless.
Good mentors dually serve as fantastic connectors. Their networks, naturally, are bigger and deeper – because of their experience – and can be a great source of additional connections, mentors and opportunities that can translate into new or enhanced work experiences.
The people I’ve learned the most from throughout my career are often the ones who introduced me to more – and in some cases, even better – mentors. The way you interpret and apply someone else’s experience will be unique to you, and therefore you may benefit additionally from other people your mentors may not initially think to introduce you to. Always be thinking of who else – or what type of person – you should be talking to next in order to get better or achieve your next goal.
And, it’s always a good idea to have mentors in a variety of capacities who can offer up a different piece of advice or provide perspective that another may not be able to. For instance, start-up experience versus corporate, agile versus waterfall, hardware versus software.
In an industry full of updates and innovations, where IT engineers are constantly being pulled in different, and sometimes competing, directions, it’s good to have mentorship. Whether it’s talking through multiple offers, working through project issues or discussing agency options, mentors are great resources to learn from.