Why I Mentor—And Why You Should, Too

Carmen O'Shea

I was inspired to write this blog by a mentee of mine, who told me, “It must be so tiring for you to have these intense mentoring discussions.”

She couldn’t be more wrong. Mentoring energizes me. The time I take to mentor 7 to 10 people on an ongoing basis, both inside and outside of SAP, often feels like the most worthwhile part of my work days.

Why do I feel this way?

  1. It challenges me. Mentees often pose complex interpersonal, performance, even work-life dilemmas, which require me to think creatively about the guidance I can provide and the questions I ask in return. It’s not always easy to balance helping someone better address a problem without necessarily dictating the answer (since I often don’t have the answer!).
  1. It inspires me. Watching mentees grow as employees, as managers, as people, is a pretty awesome feeling. Knowing I’m contributing to their success, even in a small way, makes me proud of my choice to take time out of my already crazy life to spend with them.
  1. It lets me practice. Each situation a mentee brings to me has elements of things I face in my own job, in my own position as manager, peer, and employee. In a way, mentoring provides a means for me to talk through situations that might very well arise somewhere in my own team in a risk-free setting.
  1. It makes me feel good. I’m paying it forward. I’m helping people through their challenges, one step at a time. For any of you wanting a way to give back directly in a work context, this is it.

As I mentor, I learn just as much as I give. I’m always amazed by the self-reflection mentoring demands of me and by the new ways of thinking my mentees offer. That’s the beautiful thing about mentoring.

Mentoring is one relatively simple way leaders can teach others—whether those others are junior to them, senior to them, or work with them. In fact, I maintain that mentoring is an essential skill for leaders. Leaders need to impart their learnings and also realize that their own learning can come from unexpected quarters. Mentoring provides an effective way to both teach and learn, no matter what level in the organization someone is. It’s a two-way street, and everyone has something to offer.

So the next time anyone asks you if mentoring is worth it…the answer is a resounding YES. And if you’re not already mentoring, get out there and do it!

For more on how mentoring can improve workplace culture, see Mentoring Helps Create Great Leaders And A Better Future For Your Organization.

Carmen O'Shea

About Carmen O'Shea

Carmen O'Shea is the Senior Vice President of HR Change & Engagement at SAP. She leads a global team supporting major transformation initiatives across the company, focused on change management, employee engagement, and creative marketing and interaction. You can follow Carmen on Twitter.