A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you


A man by the name of Joel Casto is flying into Anchorage this weekend and I can’t wait to see him.  He’s not bringing me a million bucks, he’s not family and he’s not famous, but he has been my mentor for 17 years.  Moreover, my relationship with Joel is the most valuable friendship I have ever had.

“To Mentor” is to act as a trusted and knowledgeable counselor or teacher.  It can also be described as being an influential sponsor or supporter. 

I’ve been lucky; I’ve had a few mentors in addition to Joel.  I’ve also had the pleasure of being a mentor to others and I’m happy to say I have learned as much from them as I have offered.


That’s the beauty of a mentorship – it’s an evolutionary exchange that is extremely beneficial to both parties.

While the relationship may start off with a particular objective, it rarely ends there and instead, becomes a reciprocal offer of knowledge and expertise.


There has been a lot of talk about mentoring in the last six months or so.  As the US continues to fight in the “war on talent,” companies are identifying internal employees who have the capability to “grow” into more demanding positions.

Many companies, however, are challenged with “now what?”  They have identified a potential leader, expert, manager, etc. but they don’t quite know what to do with them.   Most are sending the “selected” employees back to school, to training courses, to leadership camps, etc.

Dare I shoot myself in the foot, but I assert that mentorships are a better investment.

Why?  Regardless of how amazing traditional training can be, it is not “real.”


Mentorships arereal” – they are “real time,” “real life” and really helpful.


Good trainers, including myself, can only offer “real time” and “real life” to a certain extent when presenting traditional training courses.

Mentorships, on the other hand, allow the mentee to seek guidance and counsel on targeted issues affecting his/her work and life in the momentjust in time.

Likewise, a mentor, because he/she knows the mentee personally or professionally, can tailor his/her guidance accordingly.


Don’t get me wrong, good trainers can be really helpful!  We offer pragmatic advice, practical insights and processes.  We inspire people to think for themselves.

However, regardless of how good we are, we are all “one hit wonders” – and unless our clients seek continued involvement in our courses or additional coaching, we lose the ability to affect their future.


Mentorships are continual and hence, they evolve as the need evolves.  In addition, they offer the following:

  • Broadened perspectives
  • Gain of “realistic” views of the organization, the team, etc.
  • Increased self-awareness (of both strengths and areas for improvement)
  • Increased flow of ideas
  • Increased self-esteem and confidence
  • Increased ability to take risks, challenge oneself, etc.
  • Increased energy and interest in work and community
  • Heightened understanding of the organization’s vision, mission, values and culture
  • Individual recognition, encouragement and support
  • Expanded and enhanced professional network

You may be wondering, “how do I engage in a mentorship?

Believe it or not, many don’t have the courage to ask or to offer.  Perhaps these simple steps can help.

1. Identify what you need or identify what you can offer.


2. Identify who can be your mentor or identify who might benefit from being your mentee.


3. Identify what’s in it for both parties (be prepared to communicate the mutual benefits of developing a mentorship).


4. Ask or offer.  (Don’t make this harder than it is; simply communicate the answers above!)


Once the agreement is made,

1. Define the relationship (what are the expectations of both parties regarding things like sharing of information, confidentiality, commitment, accountability, etc.).


2. Identify the goals.


3. Identify the “interaction” parameters (how often will you interact, how will you interact, etc.).


4. Get started! 

Remember, mentorships are about guidance, counsel, sponsorships and/or support.  If you let these overarching objectives guide the conversation, you’ll soon find the relationship is well worth the effort!


Consider this Chinese Proverb:

A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month’s study of books.
LeadershipMentoringProfessional RelationshipsProtegeSkill DevelopmentSuccession PlanningWorkforce Development

Heather Kinzie • March 10, 2012

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