By Jillian Broaddus and Chuck Cusumano
“Mentorship” is a big buzzword in corporate America nowadays. Many organizations include mentors in onboarding processes, and leaders are encouraged to serve as mentors to their reports. I have been told that I have mentored many managers and leaders in my career. However, I hope that is not the case! Why? Well, a mentor, by definition, is a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. I think the problem with mentoring someone in business is the implication that whoever you are mentoring wants to have a career like yours or wants to know what you know.
What we truly need are more catalysts – not mentors – in our lives and careers. So, what is the difference? A catalyst is defined as a person or thing that precipitates an event. In science, it is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change. In my experience, when someone is in a mentoring role, they help the mentee figure out how to become better by utilizing their experience and know-how with the mentee. It creates a bias of how it should be done. The mentee often mimics or tries to duplicate their mentor’s thoughts and beliefs. The mentee inevitably becomes more like the mentor.
For example, I was told when I graduated from college to find someone in my desired career and ask them to mentor me. When I did this, instead of becoming the fully-realized version of my best self, I became the best version of me trying to be like my mentor. I soon felt empty doing what I believed was my career calling because it was really my mentor’s version of my calling. What I really needed was a catalyst: someone who would challenge me to be the best me I could be! At the end of the day, the catalyst should increase the rate of you discovering yourself.
Then, if you are a really good catalyst, you will also help the person to jumpstart their career by providing the platform for them to launch from. Be their first client! Be the first to invest in their idea! Use your connections and network to help them get exposure. Encourage them when they have setbacks or doubts. Listen to them and ask great questions so they can figure it out. Don’t tell them your answer; assist them in figuring out what would be best for them.
If you really want to make an impact on the world, help others discover their unique and best calling, and then help them achieve what they want rather than what you want for them, stop mentoring and be a catalyst!