The Importance of Intentional Mentorship

by Drew Spears

Drew Spears joined Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation in 2005. Over his fifteen-year career, he has held various origination, portfolio, sales and strategy management roles in multiple countries.

Mentoring is how a business passes its culture from one generation of leaders to the next. Drew Spears discusses how, if done correctly, mentoring can be just as beneficial for the mentor as it is for the mentee, as it provides the opportunity for two-way learning.

We’ve all had a leader who has made a lasting impact on our careers somewhere along the way. Perhaps they were a direct supervisor, or maybe a leader from another part of the business who took a special interest in your development. Either way, this person took the time to talk with you about their experiences, challenges and opportunities and in doing so, helped you understand what your future could look like. There is a name for that type of activity: mentoring.

Mentoring is how a business passes its culture from one generation of leaders to the next. It’s how we motivate, encourage and educate those with the aspiration of advancing their professional opportunities. If done correctly, mentoring is just as beneficial for the mentor as it is for the mentee and provides the opportunity for two-way learning. The concept of two-way learning for companies today is made critical by the speed at which technology is progressing and the evolving learned skills of those just entering the workforce. The youth of today are coming out of college with a completely different knowledge base and approach than those of 10 to 15 years ago, which is important to understand.

Most organizations have a formal structure for mentoring, but those structures have been stressed during the global pandemic. Gone are the water-cooler conversations and doorway discussions, but the need for mentoring still exists. In this climate, leaders must be intentional about mentoring. They must ensure they’re committing time to the responsibility of preparing the next wave of leaders for their roles while also gaining insight into the new wave of talent. Leaders should try to understand what drives employees. Leaders must take time to learn about their employees’ skills and passions and find out how each employee’s vision for supporting the business or customer may differ from the vision of leadership.

Through intentional mentorship and reflection, I have found my leadership style and how I communicate with my team are changing. I am adapting some of the qualities I have learned from those I’ve mentored, such as short burst communications versus holding meetings or using software tools to allow team members to weigh in on certain topics. These are learning points I’ve captured through mentoring younger employees, while also passing on knowledge gained through my 15 years of experience.

Whether you are involved in a formal mentorship relationship or prefer to collaborate with employees in a more casual way, the key is to make the time. Time is the most valuable resource you have as a leader. You owe it to yourself and your organization to leverage that time to build the talent base and continue to push yourself to grow and evolve. Everyone wins in a successful mentoring relationship. I challenge you to look at your schedule and ask yourself if you are being intentional about mentorship?

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