Much has been written in both clinical and leadership practice regarding the importance of having a mentor: what to look for in that individual, how to structure the relationship, and how to gain the most value from the experience. However, the mentoring relationship is a two-way street. Mentorship is as valuable to the mentor as it is to the mentee. Let's take a look at how that can be.
Narcissism has no place in mentorship! Being asked to be a mentor is an honor and usually comes to you because you've been identified as someone who's made the right decisions, resulting in positive outcomes. However, let's take a step back and realize that the best mentors often spend much time and effort sharing what they did wrong, in addition to what they did right. When arriving at the point in your leadership career that you serve as a mentor, there have probably been many chances for you to “mess it up.” Certainly, when those failures occurred, they weren't intentional or planned and you learned from them after reflection. Those are some of the best stories to share and a way to be fully authentic with the person you're mentoring.
It's reassuring to know that even the best leaders didn't always get everything right. For the mentor, sharing these moments allows for a time of personal reflection and satisfaction in the realization that, yes, you remember when there was an opportunity to do something different. Although the experience may have been painful at the time, you not only learned from it, but you're now sharing it so that another person won't feel the pain and frustration you once did.
The goal of mentoring isn't to develop a leader to be just like you, but instead to help another human being recognize and cultivate his or her strengths, which may be very different from your own. By listening, discussing options, and guiding solutions, you not only allow the mentee to grow, but you also have the pleasure of learning how another mind critically thinks through problems. I've often walked away from a mentoring moment with my own mind being more open than when I entered the conversation. Mentoring allows the mentor to learn, sometimes more than what we're teaching!
Another value for the mentor is around the topic of hope. Now, this may be a bit controversial. How many of us have heard, or maybe even said, “Hope isn't a plan”? In her July 2016 editorial, Editor-in-Chief Rosanne Raso explored the idea of hope: “When you and your team are optimistic and positive, you can get through tough times believing that goal achievement is still possible. It's the opposite of throwing in the towel. It's...hope.” When mentoring, you instill in another leader a positive belief in hope for the future. No matter the struggles of today, when we plan and take action, we can make things better. Giving of yourself with full commitment and transparency, and therefore seeing the growth and development in another leader, will give you personal hope for the future and is part of your legacy.
Lastly, in leadership you don't often get a lot of kudos but that doesn't mean we don't still like or need praise. There's nothing better than when you receive messages such as, “I have to tell you that at many points during the exam, I would ask myself, ‘What would Julie do or what has Julie done?’ You're a great mentor!” Or how about, “The way you not only mentored me, but also comforted me means more to me than I can express.” Mentoring allows us to receive some positive feedback about ourselves that we may otherwise never hear about.
When it's time to share your knowledge or “pass the baton,” understand that the value of investing in another human being isn't a measurable data point. Preventing someone from experiencing your past pain, learning and opening your mind to new ideas, inspiring hope for the future, and hearing that you've helped in someone else's journey provide a benefit beyond measurement.
As chairperson of Nursing Management Congress2019, I invite you to join us in New Orleans to continue to grow not only your own leadership practice, but also learn how to mentor others, creating benefits for a colleague, your organization, and yourself!
Congress2019 highlighted speaker
Becoming legendary: A personal journey in transformational leadership
AJ Stephens, DNP, MBA/HCA, RN-BC, CMSRN, NEA-BC, Director of Medical-Surgical, Oncology, and Critical Care Services, HCA North Texas, Plano, Tex.
How do we achieve transformational leadership and what does it look like in the practice setting? In this session, you'll follow the journey of a nurse leader just like you and learn how to practically apply transformational leadership tactics, including using failures as a growth mechanism toward success.