Managing Humans: The Value of Mentoring

Today’s guest blog post is the third in a six-part series by Rachel Hands, Senior Manager, Client Administration, Patron Technology. Click here to start at part one. 

So far in this series, we’ve talked about the very beginning of your colleague relationships: crafting a job posting and interviewing candidates. Now you’ve hired your best candidate, got them trained up on the nuts and bolts of the job, and they’re ready to dive in.

In the remaining posts of this series, we’re going to talk about fostering individual growth on your team through mentoring and cultivating a team culture. Whether you’re a leader in your organization or looking for ways to grow your own career, this is a great chance to think about how each person’s skills and talents impact your organization’s ability to carry out your mission.

The value of mentoring relationships is easily overlooked in nonprofit spaces, where the urgency we feel of accomplishing the organization’s mission can overwhelm the importance of making sure we’re equipped to do our best at accomplishing that mission sustainably in the long term. (If you’re not familiar with the Stephen Covey/Eisenhower “important vs. urgent” time management matrix, check out this helpful breakdown.)

Plus, our teams are often small, with overlapping roles, forcing close working relationships if anything’s going to get done. But even if you pride yourself on closeness and good communication with your colleagues, that doesn’t mean you’re getting the benefits of a mentoring relationship. Don’t let yourself off the hook.

So what’s the difference? In any successful working relationship, there’s a focus on helping a new person develop the skills and access the resources they need to succeed in their position. For example, you would never hire a new box office manager without showing them how to log into your online ticketing system and guiding them through your organization’s policies on returns, exchanges, and discounts for members or major donors.

With a mentoring relationship, the focus on skill growth and access to resources is both broader and deeper. Good mentors are there to help the mentee develop the skills to become exceptional in their current position, and maybe even expand what that role is capable of. They’re also there to help the mentee grow out of that position or even out of the organization if that’s what aligns best with the mentee’s professional goals.

I firmly believe that investing energy into this kind of relationship is more than worth the return for the organization, even if it ultimately ends up with the mentee leaving to pursue other career goals. When someone is allowed to truly grow their strengths while they work, they’ll bring those strengths to bear on the job in ways you might never have expected — and if they do leave, you can bet that they’ll leave the org better than they found it. (And who knows — you may have earned yourself a new major donor when they go on to career stardom!)

In our next post, we’ll look in detail at the specifics of what’s expected from both people in a mentoring relationship, and some concrete things you can do to initiate and maintain mentorship when it’s called for. Stay tuned!

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