Mentoring is something I think a lot of us wish for and that few of us find. Few businesses encourage it and even if they do, in my experience it's absolutely about chemistry - can't be an arranged marriage! It's been on my mind lately as in the course of a few weeks I've had several different people ask me about it as far as trying to organize it and make it successful. I'm by no means an expert, but I have some experience and I've seen both good and bad results from it - so I can at least talk about it some.
First, I'd say that it's my experience that those willing to mentor others are typically the best and brightest, the ones you want to keep! They are at the point in their career where they are comfortable with their skills, they know what they don't know and have no false pride about admitting it, and have no fears of being upstaged by the new kid on the team. Not to say that you can't be best and bright and not want to mentor, but I think it's less common. On the protege side, again I find it's the best that want the help. For many pride is an issue, admitting they are not perfect is hard if not impossible, as is taking advice from someone who they also see as not perfect. The ones who devalue experience are the ones most unlikely to be good proteges, or to even want to be mentored if available. The hungry ones, those are the good proteges!
I look at my own career(s) and while I've had some great role models, I've never had the benefit of a real mentor and while I'll never know, I think I could have grown further and faster with the help of one. Even at this point I'd enjoy a mentor, someone to challenge me, especially on the business side of things. I grow a lot from good peer discussions, especially with my thoughtful friend Steve Jones, but it's not quite the same. I do a little mentoring of my own, and that is a growth experience of a different kind, absolutely worth doing.
More thoughts on practical matters in the next post.