Certain things are true in business and in life: If you have someone who really believes in you, it’s easier to believe in yourself.
Business today is changing faster than anyone could have predicted even a few years ago. Technology has made it so. Although basic principles of supply and demand, cost and profit may not have changed, today’s procedures and paths to success can be very different. Employer-employee relationships have also been affected, but generational differences between bosses and new employees do not necessarily have to lead to collision courses. If business goals and basic direction are aligned, divergent management styles can be healthy rather than disruptive.
It’s All About Perception
The needs and aspirations of entry or mid-level employees can seem very different from the defined roles and expectations of top executives. Hence the often heard complaints about “rigidity, unpreparedness, lack of commitment, resistance to change, authoritarian style, stress, unrealistic demands, and lack of understanding.”
Millennials just see the world through a different lens than their Baby Boomer bosses. Is there a solution?
Mentors Make the Difference
Business leaders today, across a wide spectrum of influence, are rediscovering the value of one-on-one mentoring. It might take a bit of work and a slight shift in attitude, but the underlying premise is as old as time. When a skilled craftsman took an apprentice, it initiated a model that served for centuries to pass along knowledge, reinforce tradition, and ensure a high level of skill for a specific trade. We have to assume that the teacher offered understanding and encouragement along the way, and that the student sometimes resisted the lesson or tried a new method.
The same is true today. Mentoring is more than friendship. Mentors — differentiated from bosses — can be coach and cheerleader, confessor and taskmaster, critic and advocate all at the same time. It’s a viable, and increasingly popular, model that some of the nation’s largest business firms have adopted. It’s also a concept designed to offer a step up to young entrepreneurs.
Change Moves In All Directions
Part of the paradigm shift is directed by work force newcomers themselves. Millennials, members of that generation born since about 1980, are now ready to settle down. Although sometimes seen by their elders as the “not-so-serious” generation, they embrace technology in all its forms, are committed to achieving success on their own terms, want to change the world on a global scale, are adamantly committed to social change, and are eager to learn. But they also resist authority out of principle, want the freedom to make their own mistakes, and are eager to be part of the decision-making process.
That is hard for bosses to understand. But, with a mentorship model, business benefits by allowing younger employees to participate in the creative problem-solving that leads to innovation. Whether it’s for workplace solutions or more effective widget production, that “new focus” is apt to be of benefit. Employees gain competence and understanding from the supportive “learn from the pros” environment, and also have a chance to implement their future-focused ideas. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved!
Seriously Seeking a Mentor
It has often been said that if you believe enough in yourself, you might just be unstoppable. When you’re just entering the world of business, it can be hard to hold onto that belief. The admonitions that you have to “learn the ropes” and “pay your dues” are also difficult to accept.
But finding a mentor can change that — almost overnight. Mentorship can be an informal alliance, and you are not limited to a single mentor in a lifetime. Mentors do not necessarily have to be older, although they invariably are wiser. Mentors encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, to try out new ideas, to accept things that you cannot change, and to develop an expertise and a competence that are yours alone.
Mentors are more than teachers, but mentors can teach many things in many ways. Today, we need mentors in all aspects of life and business.
There has always been, and probably will continue to be, a “generation gap.” But joining with others to understand, to listen, to talk, and to walk together confidently into the future is the best way to close that gap. In generations past, that might have been called networking; you might also have been called an “apprentice” or a “journeyman.” But the relationship is the same — a personal connection that is mutually beneficial.
Even thought mentorship is a very old concept, it is thoroughly modern in its applications, and needed more than ever in the digital age.