Are you mentoring the next in line?


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In a fast changing business environment do “I remember when” or “when I was your age” stories have value? My twenty something year old children listen to my stories – sometimes. My twenty something year old direct reports listen. Of course I also do their performance reviews, so they might feel compelled to do so. Do you think these less senior people are occasionally tempted to roll their eyes during some of those business fables? Actually, I’d be surprised if they weren’t because I know I was when I was their age.

I’m not put off by an occasional eye roll. For me it signals that the message has been received, and in truth I probably told that story knowing that would be the reaction. Besides, time goes by fast, meaning it won’t be long before today’s less senior people have eyes rolling at them. That’s the way it’s supposed to work when you’re mentoring the next in line. If you have direct reports what are you doing to mentor them? Mentoring is one of the oldest and most powerful training methods, and is an essential leadership skill. In addition to managing and coaching people, it’s important that you can help others learn, grow and become more effective during their professional development. Here’s what I loved about some of my past mentors:

1. They didn’t provide all the answers. They listened first, and then asked questions while weaving in stories to help me see options without choosing one for me. Yes, sometimes I was tempted to roll my eyes because I just wanted the right answers now and didn’t want to figure out the moral of the story.
2. They weren’t afraid to let me learn through failure. I can still remember hearing “Alan, sometimes you just have to let people do stupid stuff.” Now don’t get me wrong. I know for a fact that my mentor carefully examined the pros and cons of certain failure. And he wasn’t really calling me stupid. He took stock of the risk and was OK with letting me learn through failure. And learn I did.
3. Coach + Mentor equal an added bonus. Work often has two dimensions. The task at hand (how the job should be performed) for which coaching was just fine. But there can be political elements (how to work with people and functional areas associated with or impacted by an assignment) as well. My coach/mentor’s insight on interpersonal dimensions was extra valuable.
4. They were lifelong learners and inspirational individuals because they led by example. They had a passion for learning and sharing knowledge and their attitude of “the more you give the more you get” was infectious.

My hat is off to our next leaders, and to their mentors. Now, let the story telling and eye rolling begin.

Alan See
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is the American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year for Content Marketing and recognized as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential CMO's on Social Media" by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.


  1. Great post, Alan. Brings back fond memories. I had the great good fortune to work for my father for many years. Many of the mentoring lessons he taught me are just now sinking in, decades later. These delayed learning reactions are probably typical, and good for mentors to remember when eyes are rolling.

  2. Thanks Brad,

    I also had the opportunity to work for my father while I was in High School. My eyes rolled and at that point in my life I let him see it! But looking back I now realize he was a very savvy business person.


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