When asked to look back over their lifetimes most people can identify at least one person, usually someone older or more experienced, who made a meaningful difference in their lives. Perhaps this person actually made an ongoing effort on their behalf, or perhaps this person just took a special interest in them.
As a young adult you may have been lucky enough to have been shown the ropes by a senior employee, or you may have been taken under a supervisor's wing and prepared for a successful career. Those people who took such a special interest in you were mentors. A mentor is a trusted guide or tutor, a person who cares about you and who is willing to go out of the way to see that you get the best possible chance to fulfill your potential.
Effective mentors tend to share several qualities. They look beyond face value to what a person could become. They watch for signs of specialness or hidden talent, and they seek ways to help a person develop those qualities. A mentor can be counted on to give honest, candid advice based on his or her own experience. A mentor may offer advice on how to work smarter rather than harder.
A mentor tries to put new employees in situations where they have the potential to succeed. The mentor gives the young person recognition and credit where credit is due, which helps to build self-confidence. Effective mentors know that the development of self-confidence can be as important as the learning of new skills.
In sum, a caring mutual regard grows from a mentoring relationship. Because mentors believe employees are important, they talk with them, listen to them and teach them new things. They not only offer compliments, they encourage growth. In the process they improve the skills of those serving under their guidance and help them to feel good about themselves.