It can be daunting to believe in yourself as a mentor. It can be hard work to take on that role. But if all you're seeing are obstacles and objections, maybe you are letting negative thoughts get in the way of what could be a powerfully positive experience of helping to create the stars and leaders of the future.
Let's look at some of the common (and unnecessary) thoughts and beliefs that tend to hold people back from mentoring others.
1. Are You important enough to be a mentor?
There is nobody whose job is so humble that they have absolutely nothing to teach anyone else. Even if you're the lowliest person who does the basic data-entry tasks, surely you can help the new data-entry employee find the best times to back up the computer and the most efficient ways to refill the printer paper. And you can be their cheerleader, the one person who appreciates their efforts.
2. Is your job is too essential to spend the time mentoring?
Mentoring is not something that will eat up your calendar from 2 to 4 PM on Tuesdays, unless that's what you and your protege want to do. Just let it happen more or less organically. You could let that person shadow you as you go about your day and join you in meetings. Spend unscheduled time drinking coffee together and plotting world domination. Take the person you're mentoring seriously by listening to their ideas, suggesting new ways to look at a problem, and maybe attending one of their team meetings.
3. Are you nervous about one-on-one conversations?
Keep in mind, just because something scares you doesn't mean you won't be good at it. Often, being a little scared and doing it anyway is where the greatest breakthroughs are made. I call it the OS!M (the Oh,Sh*t! Moment) that could tell you that you are headed somewhere interesting. My philosophy says you should seek to help others be greater than yourself. Focus more on the other person, and less on yourself, and that nervousness will vanish.
4. Would you rather focus on your own success?
Points for honesty, because most people who love their work are obsessed with where it will take them next. That's a good and healthy motivation. If you are thinking about your own personal legacy, that's great--but it should never come at the expense of your genuine concern for the people in your orbit. If they aren't happy, you aren't doing it right.
5. Are you more of a follower than a leader?
Maybe you're just discerning. Companies may appreciate those who jump to take leadership positions, but they benefit at least as much from people with the wisdom to recognize when someone else's idea might be better. You have to be an attentive person who keeps your eyes and ears open, so you will spot it when it appears.
That's why nothing translates better to the mentoring experience than willingness to listen and learn. You know the old adage, "Teach a person to fish and you've fed them for a lifetime." Who wins in that scenario (hint: it's not the fish)? It's the patient teacher, who may be an introvert but who can show by example how something must be done.
You don't have to be outgoing or charismatic to be a great mentor; in fact, the opposite may be true.
6. Do you have anything to offer?
I'll be blunt: yes, you do have something to offer. You don't have to have "arrived" before giving others a leg up. Your life experience so far is packed with wisdom worth conveying to someone else. Your perspective is gold to another in need of a different point of view. The lessons you've learned--even the ones that seem obvious to you--can be a great revelation to another. How do I know this? Because you're human, and that's the nature of the human experience. We tend to discount the diamonds right below our feet.
The majority of employees, regardless of age or work experience, desire mentorship. And most employees, regardless of age or areas of expertise, have knowledge and insight to share. What you need to do is get your own attitude into the sweet spot where you can share the insight in an effective way for the other person.
Your ultimate goal as a mentor is to end up making the person you're mentoring exceed your own successes.
Believe me, it will help you just as much--or even more--in the end.