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Empowering our people through mentorship

The first principle of our Bison mission is to empower our people. One of the ways we do this is by fostering mentorship relationships – both formal and informal. As a person who has received mentorship over time, I’ve been the benefactor of working with mentors who intentionally met with me to help me grow in specific ways and they invested heavily in me as a person. I’ve also experienced 'mentorship in the moment' many times. Sometimes, I haven't even realized I’ve received mentorship until I've looked back and gain some perspective about how a situation has progressed or changed.

One of my first mentors was a hockey coach. He had named me team captain and he often said to me ‘just do the right thing. When in doubt, always do what’s right and the rest will sort itself out.’ That statement rings in my head to this day. Even though he was focused on helping me lead the players on the ice, he was helping me form an important, long-term behaviour pattern. He tested my character and encouraged me to strengthen it.

Dave has been on both sides of mentorship. Dave has been on both sides of mentorship.

 My list of formal and informal mentors is quite long. Being mentored has been a driving force in why I wanted to be a mentor myself – to give to others as they have given to me, and even multiply that giving.

Right now, I’m mentoring a number of people formally. Each of them is at a different place in their career, and so the mentorship I’m providing them varies – they all need something a little different from me.

In a workplace like Bison, mentorship is extremely important. Working with a mentor gives an employee a more unstructured setting to develop their skills and perspective, on their own time, at their own pace. It can also provide a good complement to an employee’s relationship with their supervisor and focus on areas where the typical business-learning environment doesn’t necessarily focus, like wellness. Mentorship doesn’t have to be permanent or formal, but it has to be based on a foundation of trust and the willingness of both parties to be open, honest and to invest. Mentorship involves making yourself available to the person you’re mentoring; it doesn’t always mean scheduled meetings – it could be 10-minute check-ins or calls on the weekend when someone is struggling.

A mentorship relationship can be a safe place to talk about the struggles you’re having – whether personally or professionally. It can help you see yourself in a different light. Professional mentors can help you navigate your way through a company’s culture and be a sounding board and a resource for feedback. Mentors often offer wisdom; some past experiences of their own (both successful and unsuccessful) that can help you find the right path.

If you have wisdom to share, consider being a mentor. If you have a desire to improve and grow, find a mentor. The process of sharing and listening to wisdom can be a powerful force.

This is the first post in a series of blogs highlighting the importance of mentorship. Watch for the second installment next week. If you have a story to share about how mentorship has played an important role in your life, we encourage you to share it in the comments.

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