Best of 2015, first published on May 4, 2015
I spent most of the weekend shopping to get that “perfect” gift for friends, family, and co-workers. It’s the holiday season. The season where many of us are expressing our appreciation and care for friends and family through gift giving. It made me reflect that one of the most perfect gifts we can give another person is to be a mentor and provide a listening ear and sound advice. Is there someone in your workplace who could benefit from your mentoring? I challenge you to add just one more gift to your giving list this season – the gift of mentoring.
“Mentoring brings us together – across generation, class, and often race – in a manner that forces us to acknowledge our interdependence, to appreciate, in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words, that ‘we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny.’ In this way, mentoring enables us to participate in the essential but unfinished drama of reinventing community, while reaffirming that there is an important role for each of us in it.” – Marc Freedman
Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been involved in several conversations about the value of mentoring in helping underrepresented faculty, staff, and students feel included and welcome in our campus communities. Not surprisingly, good mentoring helps ALL employees feel supported and valued and promotes their success. I was reminded of this very fact when I met with my mentor last week to discuss recent challenges I’ve faced in my work and strategies for moving forward. Not only did I walk away from that meeting with better perspective and some concrete next steps I could take, but I left feeling more supported and valued.
In talking with colleagues, I’ve been able to identify some successful mentoring efforts happening at a few of our colleges, like a faculty mentoring program or teaching circles that help new faculty build relationships while learning from each other. Or a buddy program that pairs new employees with experienced employees to help introduce them to the campus, its culture, and people they should know.
Most colleagues, however, talked about the challenges of starting and maintaining mentoring programs. Colleagues who have started formal matched mentoring programs, experience about a 50% or lower success rate, in terms of mentors-mentee pairs who continue to meet and find value from the relationship over time. Probably more troubling, was a colleague who mentioned that with his campus mentoring program there are far more people who want to be mentored, than there are those who are willing to be mentors.
It made me think about what would happen if we began fostering a mentoring culture on our campuses. Much like the “each one, teach one” literacy campaigns around the nation to help k-12 students, why couldn’t we begin an “each one, reach one” campaign, where every employee reaches out to mentor someone else?
Perhaps this is a pie in the sky idea. But given the benefits that could result from mentoring, like making all faculty, staff, and students feel included and welcomed, and supporting their success, wouldn’t it be worth a try?