Why I am Passionate about Mentoring

Beginning with my first duty assignment as an Army Second Lieutenant, to my time in the Private Sector as an Executive Leader, and today as a Start-up Co-founder the process of mentoring has been key to my success as a leader. I have had five distinct mentors over the years and each has contributed to my leadership vertical development.

Mentoring vs. Coaching

The terms mentoring and coaching are often construed to mean the same thing. Nothing could be further from the truth. A simple way to understand the difference between mentoring and coaching is: A coach has some great questions for your answers; a mentor has some great answers to your questions (Figure 1). Each of my mentors 1) possessed a great deal of knowledge and business unit know-how, 2) provided me advice and guidance, and 3) shared their experiences with me.

Figure 1, The Differences Between Coaching, Mentoring and Related Fields. Culture at Work, (Wilson, C., 2016)

Vertical Development and Mental Growth

All my mentors contributed to my horizontal development, increasing my knowledge, skills, and competencies. However, my mentors spent most of their time attending to my vertical development, enhancing my ability to think and act in complex systems. 

They did this by 

1) Providing me valuable new ways of thinking in volatile, uncertain and ambiguous situations 

2) Drawing me out of my comfort zone through intense stretch assignments 

3) Helping me create strong developmental networks at work

4) Accepting my failures when they led to my mental growth.

In the end, my mentors were focused on my vertical growth trajectory, which was about my future, maturity, growing up and increasing my depth. As I look back to each of my mentoring experiences, I now know my mentors were all focused on my adult mental growth and my transformation as a leader.