Warren Buffett has repeatedly mentioned the importance that mentorship can have in someone’s career development, including his own.
During his time at Columbia University, Buffett was fortunate enough to have Benjamin Graham as a teacher and mentor. In the foreword of the book Security Analysis, Buffett writes that Graham “changed my life.”
Beyond that, Buffett has always advised that success relies on surrounding yourself with the right people. He said:
“Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.”
This is a good life lesson about adapting the traits of successful people further down the path from us. Because when you do, you grow your influence and network.
As the famous saying goes, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Make sure to associate with those who can potentially help you learn new things, grow, and advance your career.
Taking Buffett’s advice to the workplace
While Buffett’s advice is good for someone’s individual growth, we need to elevate this conversation to the growth of an organization.
Leaders need to include mentorship as part of an ongoing strategy to develop their own employees. When you bring mentorship to the workplace, people gain tangible opportunities to expand their skills, social connections that will open up new doors, and visibility from an increased network. However, mentorship is not a monthly lunch or formal contract. It’s really having someone in close proximity to inspire you, and who is willing to invest in, and work with, you.
Here’s the rub. According to the Career Optimism Index, a University of Phoenix survey of 5,000 employees and 500 employers across the country, 91 percent of employers believe their employees have someone in their professional life who advocates for them, but only 63 percent of employees actually agree.
“Employers can bridge this gap by offering both formal and informal mentorship opportunities within the workplace. Building support systems, encouraging mentorship, and enabling peer advocacy are key because they nurture connection,” says University of Phoenix provost John Woods. “When employees feel connected to each other and to their organization, when they are learning and growing, that creates a sense of belonging, which leads to engagement and retention.”
These days, no two workforces look the same. If you’re making the transition back to the office, implementing a mentorship program is really key to encouraging employees to come into the office and also to ensuring younger workers build connections throughout their careers.
Finally, to ensure that your people don’t quit during the Great Reset, remember this: good leaders use one-on-one conversations as an ongoing opportunity to mentor and coach, rather than merely “manage.” They ask powerful questions to accelerate learning and they take the time to stretch their employees’ growth by exposing them to new roles. This is what high-achieving employees crave these days to keep developing and building on their strengths.