“You will always be a failure in marketing, Mark. You need to get out.” Those were the actual words uttered by my first boss at a financial institution. I was serving as a lowly marketing coordinator (so low, I was the one dressing up as the mascot). I was indeed struggling in that job, like spelling the CEO’s name wrong in the newsletter.

At that point in my career I had a choice to make: I was either going to be fired or transferred to the collection department (my version of Purgatory). I was recently married and wanted to stay gainfully employed so I chose collections. For the next four and a half years I served as a collection officer and eventually loan officer. I was quite good at those jobs, was making good money and on track for a management position.

And I was utterly miserable (because I was not doing what I was passionate about). Eventually a job came open at another organization for a lowly marketing coordinator. I took a significant pay cut to try “this marketing thing” again. But my boss at this new organization did not see me as a failure. Rather he poured his life into mine and taught me incredible communication, branding and marketing skills.

Terry Young changed my life. Not because he was a manager—because he was a mentor. If you supervise people, you need to mentor them.

Here are the three I’s of a great mentor:

  • Ignite—Great mentors focus on your learning. You need to teach the people you mentor. But you can’t teach what you don’t know. Mentors are lifelong learners themselves. You also need to question the people you mentor. One of my favorite questions to ask is “What is the last book you read?” As a mentor, you should ignite learning in those around you.
  • Invest—Great mentors are focused on you. You need to love the people you mentor. Even people unlike yourself. In fact, you can’t lead them until you love them. You also need to serve the people you mentor. In fact, put their needs above your own. Many credit unions and banks say they compete on service. If that’s the case, keep this point in mind: your level of external service to your consumers will never exceed the level of internal service you are giving your team. As a mentor, you should invest time and energy in those around you.
  • Inspire—Great mentors focus on improvement. You need to stretch the people you mentor. In other words, challenge and push them. Think of your favorite coach growing up. My guess is they didn’t let you stay stagnant. You also need to emotionally connect with the people you mentor. Michelangelo once said “I saw the angel in the marble and I chiseled until I set it free.” What do you see in your people? As a mentor, you should inspire vision and greatness in those around you.

Leadership matters. In fact, leadership is so important we offer a customized leadership-training program that specializes in taking your supervisors from just being mere managers to magical mentors.

Why? Because no one should feel like a failure in their careers.