Mentorship for the purpose of encouraging career growth is as popular now as it has never been before. It’s easy for someone looking for a change in their career path to find experienced specialists, offering advice on questions of personal and professional development. Usually, all that’s needed is to be a part of some mentorship programme or utilise LinkedIn capabilities. Oftentimes companies have their own internal mentorship programme for employees as well. We can clearly see that having a seasoned ‘companion’ along for the ride encourages people to grow and develop themselves. These days, however, more and more we hear the talk of the so-called ‘reverse mentorship’ – skills and experiences that the mentors themselves gain, despite them being very experienced and often in a leadership position.
The organisers behind the “Women Go Tech” mentorship programme say that this initiative has received increasing attention over the years not just from the women looking to change their career paths, but also from potential mentors. Ula Pociute, who is heading this initiative, says that the mentors chose the programme to contribute to its mission, but discover themselves gaining new insights after having participated in it.
“This year our initiative has nearly 200 mentors. Many of these professionals are returning mentors, who tried the experience five years ago, when it first started. One of the reasons they return is the knowledge that this will also help them grow as leaders.” – says the head of the initiative Ula Pociute.
Aurelija Zidickyte and Mindaugas Raudys, participants in the “Women Go Tech” mentorship programme, share their insights. Aurelija is not new to this initiative, whilst for Mindaugas it’s his first time – both of them agree unanimously that this experience enriched their lives as leaders.
Achievements and high scores were less enjoyable
Public LLC “Smart Metering Program” (SMP) accounting department head A. Zidickyte got curious about the possibilities that being a mentor brings when she encountered internal challenges in her day-to-day job. She recalls feeling that her achievements not only no longer brought her joy, but also caused additional tension. “I started to wonder – what could be changed? Can I find the perfect balance where the results are good, I find joy in achieving them, but also encourage the involvement of others? Is it possible to achieve extraordinary things with ordinary efforts? I realised that I need to change my approach, that I need to learn more about people, not just results”.
Thus Aurelija decided to start with changing her own approach and join a mentorship project, which helped her sort out priorities and values when it comes to leadership. “To me mentorship is a relationship between to people with the goal to learn, discover new mindsets and approaches to business. It also teaches patience, attention to detail and the skill of active listening. Sometimes it’s so hard to just stop yourself from making rash judgements and to instead employ curiosity to understand what’s happening. It’s exactly that, which helps to discover the most suitable actions.” – she concurs.
Speaking about positive mentorship examples she reveals that it would be near-impossible to name just one type of person, however, there are different universal qualities that are needed for successful interactions. “I would like to have a mentor who is curious about my situation and does not hesitate when it comes to expressing their insights, but also is empathetic, patient and supportive.”- Aurelija says. She also adds that mentorship is an option to everyone who wants to become a better leader, but it’s important to find a deeper purpose for the experience to become truly useful. “One can develop almost any skill with enough time and effort. But you need to ask yourself – why am I doing all this?”
Mentorship reminded long-forgotten truths
Meanwhile M. Raudys, who is the head of production at “Axioma Metering”, became a mentor after being encouraged by his colleagues. The company’s HR department offered him to take part in such activities so that best practices that are associated with mentorship & leadership would be better applied at work. “I wanted to improve my skills as a leader, because I knew that this is an opportunity to not only share my skills, but to also learn from other mentors for whom leadership is a part of their job. I was truly interested in the concept of ‘reverse mentorship.’” – Mindaugas recalls.
According to him, mentorship gives him new skills and insights in the industry where he’s spent over a decade. “I can share a lot on the topic of production – I have led several trainings in this field to my team. It was being a mentor, however, that reminded me that a mutual connection is the most important part of a job well done.
Speaking about this mutual connection during mentorship, Mindaugas highlights the importance of feeling like equals – which leads not only to the success of the mentee, but also to enhanced leadership skills of the mentor. “Being a mentor reminded me that I shouldn’t try to push my mindset onto someone, even if it is based on experience. It is very important to let the person you’re working with to think and make decisions on their own accord. This helps to understand certain errors and improve long-standing work practices.”
According to M. Raudys, mentorship has two sides: aside from excellent professional competences and skills, a true mentor should be curious and have an open mind. “Even with a lot of experience in your industry it’s important to never stop being interested in innovation and improvements. Personally, a lot of the things I heard during my time as a mentor were new to me – and extremely valuable.”
He recommends that every leader try their hand at mentorship as it will help to learn new things not only from the mentees, but other mentors in positions of leadership.