Mentoring: The value of corporate ‘elders’

By Terri Bozkaya


In many cultures, special importance is placed on the relationship of elders to the rest of the community. Individuals who have lived long and experienced the many different challenges that life brings are credited with wisdom that goes beyond “knowledge.”

Wisdom is drawn from years of experience and helps fashion solutions to problems that otherwise might be missed. Elders guide not only children and youth, but also younger adults. This makes sense because they are the “survivors,” the ones who have found ways around difficulty and lived to tell their story.

Not surprisingly, the same principle holds true in business: The best guides are the ones with lots of experience. The difficulties of a long and varied career bring about business moxie and wisdom that go beyond the knowledge of a particular profession. As in life, there is a need for those with more experience to guide the less experienced, to make sure that they find their way.

This is really what mentoring is all about. A person’s mentor may be from another profession or industry. A mentor does not have to be an executive or even a manager. A good mentor is a person who has learned to navigate a path through challenges and hardships and who is willing to be a guide for someone else.

Our businesses benefit from identifying mentors (corporate “elders”), and fostering a work environment where the inexperienced can learn and develop with perspective offered through the eyes of the “wise.”

When wisdom is not passed along, every challenge must be faced through trial and error, as though it were occurring for the very first time. Employees learn things the hard way, if at all.

In the alternative, imagine the competitive edge that exists when a company leverages the strength of its savvy, seasoned staff and develops the inexperienced to follow in their footsteps.

It's a hard-to-beat combination.


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