Martin Luther King Jr. I Have a Dream
The request for mentoring someone else can sometimes come at an “inconvenient” time—when workload, taking over a new role, dealing with organizational change seem...

By Karin Sarratt

Vice President of Talent Management, WellPoint, Inc.

Throughout my career I’ve participated in many developmental conversations involving myself and others. One recommendation that never fades is “find yourself a mentor.” Perfectly good advice, but I believe “becoming a mentor” should be mentioned more often in the list of developmental opportunities.

I know the request for mentoring someone else can sometimes come at an “inconvenient” time—when workload, taking over a new role, dealing with organizational change seem challenging enough. However, as we celebrate National Mentoring Month, I invite you to challenge yourself and others on this conventional thinking and entertain the idea that this might be the right time for you. Here are some of my thoughts about the gift of mentoring others.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” This quote from William Arthur Ward reflects so well what a mentor should aspire to. Think about those you regard as great mentors and you’ll likely find that it’s not so much what they said, but what they made you want to become.

Step into mentoring with eyes wide open. Mentoring others is not to be taken lightly. A mentor has the opportunity to impact someone else’s professional path and, very likely, their approach to career and life decisions. This is a privilege that a mentor must approach with commitment and dedication.

It’s never too early to start mentoring others. I believe we all have something to pass on to others, no matter how experienced or inexperienced we are. Being a mentor shouldn’t be reserved for those who wear a leader badge, but for those who see leadership as a personal call to develop others and themselves. A mentor gains satisfaction by sharing knowledge, expertise, and influence, and helping others develop. As they guide a protégé in a journey of self-discovery, they may also unveil and fine tune their own voice as a leader.

Sometimes the teacher becomes the student. In one of my most memorable mentoring experiences I was mentored by a college student as part of a “reverse mentoring” program. I learned a great deal about the value of social media and technology. In fact, we held many of our mentoring sessions via Skype! It truly reinforced that any mentoring partnership can become a mutual learning experience and mentors should be open, humble, and wise to recognize the value younger, more junior protégés can bring.

So, if becoming a mentor overwhelms you, I invite you to take a deep breath and give it a chance. This can be a unique opportunity to inspire others and, by doing so, to inspire you to be the leader you’ve envisioned.

Karin W. Sarratt recently joined WellPoint, Inc. as vice president, Talent Management. Sarratt leads all aspects of end-to-end talent management for the enterprise, including succession planning; management and leadership development; performance management; learning; training; organizational development; and recruiting and retaining high potential talent.

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