SumTotal Blog

Why not mentor?

Regardless of which team you rooted for during last weekend’s Super Bowl, hopefully you have heard, and loved, the message that came from Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson.

“Why not us?”

Throughout the year he mentally prepared his team for the big game using a quote – “you have the ability so why not you?” – which he borrowed from his late father and mentor.  This “why not us” battle cry inspired his team. It reminded them of their strengths and abilities. It helped them persevere and win.

Watching Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ story unfold I thought about the impact role models and mentors have on our lives.  For many of us, it starts with our parents and guardians, who shape and mold us into good, productive adults based on their experiences and life lessons.

I was just as lucky as Russell Wilson. I had parents who guided, pushed and encouraged me to use my abilities, work hard and strive to have an impact.  Even though my talents weren’t athletic, my experience was not different from Russell Wilson’s.

By sharing the “why not us?” message and his wisdom, Wilson helped prepare and coach the Seahawks towards their ultimate goal – to win the Super Bowl.

Throughout my career, I’ve found it important to seek out good mentors. I want to continue to grow, and to do so, I need the encouragement and support of others who will share their experiences and are willing to teach and challenge me to be better.

Some of my best mentors have been managers who pushed me outside of my comfort zone, expanding my skills beyond what I thought was possible. Others have been peers who I constantly collaborated with and exchanged ideas. Together we were able to deliver some amazing outcomes.

Ironically enough, as someone who has been in the learning and talent management space for over 20 years, none of my mentors came to me from a formal talent management or learning program. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed an alarmingly common trend – mentoring programs die off once formal onboarding is complete.

So, how did I get so lucky to build my career in the directions I wanted? I asked for opportunity and wasn’t afraid to do the work to get there.

My first real business mentor was a manager who worked side by side with me. She was open and honest, coached in the moment, and she knew my success equaled her success.  I was able to work on some amazing projects with outstanding companies because she trusted me and the knowledge she helped instill in me.

Other mentors took time to teach me new things in real time.  I love the trial-by-fire approach – doing and learning all in one. It engaged me in my work and aligned my efforts to the organization and its goals.

Once I moved into management I made it my mission to pay it forward. I took these lessons with me and planned to share, teach and inspire my team. I’ve been honored to mentor others, but have been equally privileged that I am still coached by the people around me – my mom, my peers and my management team. And I don’t want to overlook the next generation of workers, who I hope learn something from me because I’m learning from them. (Here are a few of them with me last week!)

sumtoal sko selfie

For all of us in the HR industry, regardless of your role, take a lesson from Russell Wilson and invest the time in improving mentoring programs and opening doors for people to connect and collaborate.  It will only make us all more effective and engaged.  It is critical to employee development.

Always ask – why not you?


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