You’ve probably heard of it and you may have even taken part in it at some point in your career. Mentoring – a partnership between an experienced individual and a less experienced one – can benefit people with many different backgrounds in a wide variety of contexts.
It’s not a new concept – mentoring dates back to Ancient Greece and Homer’s The Odyssey – but today it’s an increasingly important part of professional development.
What is mentoring?
A mentor helps guide a mentee through a particular situation; starting a new career or progressing in a chosen field, for example. Unlike activities such as coaching and training which focus on an individual’s performance or details of a particular job, mentoring addresses the personal growth of an individual – often with a long-term view. That’s why it’s important to choose a mentor you respect and with whom you can feel comfortable sharing personal information.
Why do it?
CBA National recently caught up with two members of the CCCA mentoring program to get their take on their experience.
Mentee Matthew Hewson, vice president and general counsel at Liquor Stores N.A. Ltd., was looking for help to manage new demands: “I was looking for guidance and experience implementing some larger initiatives and process. I felt like we were providing good service and doing good work, but workflow was increasing and the systems and processes to handle the work were not keeping pace.”
His mentor, Cindy Mintz, manager, legal, at Repsol Oil & Gas Canada Inc., was looking to give back.
“As I’ve gotten later into my career, I’ve started to reflect on what aspects of my work I find most meaningful and rewarding, and what I want to accomplish before I retire. Teaching and mentoring are at the top of my list, and the CCCA mentoring program offered a great opportunity to start right away. […] I have really appreciated hearing fresh perspectives on issues common to our profession, especially in the context of different industries. I’ve also benefitted from a renewed sense of community among in-house counsel.”
How to make it work for you
As Hewson observes, all mentoring partnerships will be different and every participant will weigh benefits differently. To get the most out of the relationship, he suggests asking open-ended and sometimes challenging questions. In his experience, his mentor’s probing questions helped to clarify things that remained elusive to him.
Cindy Mintz stresses that it’s important for both mentors and mentees to enter the partnership with a clear idea of what you want to gain from it, and ensure that your expectations are aligned right from the beginning.
Some final advice
Says Mintz: “Do reinforce your commitment to confidentiality – the mentoring partnership needs to be a safe space.”
Says Hewson: “I did not experience this, but I think “don’ts” could include giving too much advice at the expense of collaboration, and guiding the mentee with [your] own goals.
The Canadian Corporate Counsel Association (CCCA) Mentoring Program, “Counsel Guiding Counsel: The Path to Excellence,” provides critical, hands-on advice to in-house lawyers who are seeking the insights and guidance of more experienced corporate counsel. It is the only program of its kind available in Canada, and is free to all regular CCCA members. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.