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July 07, 2015 Article 2 min read

At Plante Moran, every staff member who joins our firm is given a team partner and a buddy. Team partners are responsible for career coaching and performance evaluations. Buddies tend to be peers — good listeners in similar disciplines who can provide day-to-day guidance to help staff acclimate.

Why do we do this? Because we understand the importance of mentoring. Most of us can’t achieve success on our own and, while friends, family, and colleagues are important, there’s no substitute for a mentor. Here are some of our favorite quotes on the topic as well as our perspective on what makes them so powerful.

“My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people... and make them even better.” — Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was one of the most polarizing mentors in the history of business. While some may argue he pushed too far, he also knew how to get the most out of his colleagues. Being a mentor isn’t the same as being a friend, and it’s important to understand the difference.

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg

What made Jobs a successful mentor was that he surrounded himself with people who were slightly or even vastly different from himself. He never attempted to clone his skill set; instead he fostered the capabilities of others. Spielberg’s quote exemplifies the potential of this approach.

“You don’t have to have mentors who look like you. Had I been waiting for a black, female Soviet specialist mentor, I would still be waiting.” — Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice takes this one step further. It doesn’t matter how similar a mentor is to her mentee; in fact, difference is arguably better. The main criteria is that the mentor is someone to look up to and someone with an interest in your career.

“No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it.” —Peter F. Drucker

Being a mentor has its own benefits. Once you’re able to explain complex processes to others in a simplified manner, it’s likely that you’ve mastered the task.

“The greatest gift you can give is time.” — Unknown

To be a mentor, you don’t need to be an expert or sage. Instead, you simply need to be willing. Being a mentor is about providing support and creating a healthy environment to foster growth opportunities — something we’re all capable of.