Celebrating Our Mentors and Lessons Learned

by Lois Zachary

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” Dan Zadra, the Founder and Editorial Director of Compendium, Inc.

Easier said than done.

How many times have we expressed a similar intention? We let one thing or another stop us from executing on good intentions even though we know it’s important to thank the people who matter most in our lives.

January is national mentoring month. It is the perfect time to  express appreciation to mentors, past and present. If you manage a mentor program in your organization, it is the ideal time to celebrate mentoring and acknowledge those engaged in your programs. If you are an organizational leader, this is the time to speak to the value mentoring has created in your organization.

Express Appreciation to Your Mentors, Past and Present. Most of us were taught to say thank you whenever someone gave us a gift. The irony is that the thank you is often premature, meaning that we say it but really don’t appreciate the gift at the very time it is given. Frequently, it is not until years later when we read that special book, or light that special candle or recall the wisdom and advice of a former mentor, that we truly “use” and appreciate the gift.

Have your mentor’s words and advice sustained you over the years? Why not pick up the phone, send a note or spend some time talking to your mentor about the lessons learned and how you’ve applied them? It’s a gift for you and your mentor. First, it creates an opportunity for you to reflect on what you’ve learned, and second, it provides an occasion to reconnect and celebrate with your mentor.

If you are mentor, you can use this opportunity to reconnect with mentees and find out how and what they are doing. National Mentoring Month sparks many conversations, and if you are open to it, it can spark some inner conversation for you as well. It offers a great time to reflect on what you have learned as a mentor and to consider the kind of legacy you want to leave as a mentor.

Celebrate Mentoring. If you manage a mentoring program in your organization, January is the opportune time to celebrate what your program has accomplished— where it has been and where it is going. This is the month that you want to celebrate mentoring successes, acknowledge mentoring participants, and encourage mentoring participation, both formal and informal. Celebration adds value and creates visibility for mentoring.  It is a marker for mini-milestones, major milestones, accomplishments and the end of a mentoring cycle. Celebration provides a natural closure and transition to the next phase or stage. It drives commitment and sustains ownership throughout the organization.

What can you do to help ensure successful celebration of mentoring in your organization? Engage your stakeholders in planning and implementing their own celebration. Facilitate and support mentoring partners in celebrating their own success. Identify best practices. Make organizational celebrations meaningful by engaging people’s hearts and heads in celebration. Celebrate organizational as well as individual learning and success.

Acknowledge the Value of Mentoring. Value and visibility are created when people feel mentoring is meaningful to them and is connected to a larger purpose. Organizational leaders are in a unique position to make that connection and to enhance the visibility of mentoring and the growth and development of a mentoring culture.

Nothing says value more than the presence of senior leaders. If you are a senior leader, commit to playing a meaningful role that demonstrates the alignment of mentoring with your organization’s culture and values. Stop the organizational clock and thank the people in your organization who are making a difference in the lives of others by practicing good mentoring. Tell your story. Engage in mentoring.

Time marches on and unless we stop the clock and make dedicated time to celebrate mentoring we miss the opportunity to acknowledge the very people who matter most in our lives. Good intention doesn’t cut it. Action does.

Lois ZacharyLois Zachary is the President of Leadership Development Services, LLC. and an international expert on mentoring and leadership development. She has written several books on mentoring. The newest one is The Mentor’s Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships. Other books include Creating a Mentoring Culture: The Organization’s Guide, and


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