TOP FIVE STEPS TO BETTER MENTORING
Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, these tips can lead to a more productive mentor relationship
[I]f a tree has strong roots, it will be able to withstand any number of maladies that may come to pass … [and] will have the energy to produce the fruit necessary to feed other
by Michael Wayne
I trust you’ve had an opportunity for reflection over the past several weeks. We’ve certainly been through a lot in the last couple of years. We’ve all seen hardship, for sure, but I hope that, like me, you’ve also found reason to give thanks.
As we enter 2022, we are tempted to create resolutions. You probably have ideas on what those might be, so I’m not going to add any. Instead, I’m going to issue a challenge or two: For those who are newish to the industry, I challenge you to seek out colleagues who fit the mold of what you read in the paragraphs that follow; for those of you who have been around the block a few times, consider these top five ways to become a (better) mentor to less-seasoned insurance professionals.
Look for colleagues you respect and for colleagues who respect you
Whether you are in the C-suite, a producer, or another integral support staff colleague, you’re likely going to find it easier to mentor someone with a career path that mirrors yours. Shared interests in the same lines of coverage for producers is an obvious link. Beyond that, determining what someone is passionate about can help you figure out if you really can help someone advance in any appreciable way.
Mentorship is a two-way street. Those that you choose to give your time, energy, and knowledge to have to show that they have the desire to work and improve.
Be the root of a mentoring tree
Elevating someone else is a life-altering experience. There’s nothing preventing you from having that effect on multiple people. Most importantly, you may be in a position to make certain that institutional knowledge is not lost, that your organization’s next generation has competent leaders, and that fellow agency employees that you may never even meet have a mentor of their own to continue the cycle.
I’m paraphrasing someone here, but if a tree has strong roots, it will be able to withstand any number of maladies that may come to pass. More importantly, that tree will have the energy to produce the fruit necessary to feed others and may even be the start of an orchard.
Following job descriptions exactly is not the way to innovate
If you are a leader, if you have exceeded expectations and have risen to the top of your field, it’s highly unlikely that you did so by being less than innovative. This isn’t code to say not to follow the rules or to subvert them, to do something less than ethical to get ahead. This is permission for you to show those you are mentoring how to enhance what they were hired to do so that they can “be.”
Make sure that you are being fed
Great mentors are great not because they know everything but because they refuse to stop figuring out what they don’t already know. One of the greatest benefits of being a mentor is that if you select the right mentees, you’ll never stop learning. You have less of a chance of becoming a dinosaur, less likely of becoming extinct.
Be mindful of the fact that there are those out there who won’t hesitate to simply take advantage of what you have to offer without reciprocating. While your driving goal here shouldn’t be all about you, you aren’t running a wisdom charity either. If you feel like you have placed yourself in that type of a relationship, the good news is that you have the power to end the relationship. Likewise, no matter how valuable you believe your mentorship is, your mentee has the ability to terminate the relationship also.
Be upfront about your expectations
When you start a mentoring relationship, the absolute wrong thing to do is provide a false narrative of the path that you are leading someone on. Mentorship is not supposed to be a job offer but rather the path to improvement and better positioning for opportunities that may arise. As much as it may pain you, you may not have everything your mentee needs to progress as far as they would like. Knowing your current limitations—and I say current because we should all push for our limitations to be temporary—may be the most important lesson you share.
If your mentee understands that they have to expand their boundaries as well, that they won’t always necessarily have the answers tucked away in the knowledge that they already possess, that’s mentorship that is priceless.
Michael Wayne is a freelance insurance writer.