As a mentor, your role is to pass on the knowledge and expertise that you have gained throughout your career. As you watch your mentee develop under your guidance, this can, of course, be extremely fulfilling.
Moreover, mentoring can also facilitate your own professional growth, allowing you to strengthen your leadership skills and ability to work with people from different backgrounds.
And for any organisation, mentoring is an excellent way to retain top talent, providing less experienced staff with the opportunity to progress and ensuring both sides feel valued.
If you’re starting out as a mentor, there are several straightforward rules to follow:
Set clear goals
Without goals to work towards, mentoring sessions can become unstructured and mentees may lose track of what they are aiming to achieve. Set clear goals at the outset, both short and long-term, and track progress along the way, to ensure steady progression.
While it is crucial that mentees come prepared, so should you. Each mentoring session should have an end goal – and you should be ready to answer questions.
Mentors must be open and honest with their mentees, offering regular feedback which will guide the former’s development. Constructive feedback, which provides solutions and tips for improvement, is far better than simply pointing out weaknesses, which can be demoralising. It is also vital to highlight what your mentee does well, so that they can build upon their natural strengths.
Always put yourself in the shoes of the mentee. Effective mentors show empathy at every stage of this relationship. Mentees can often be a little nervous and this can limit progress. It is important to constantly understand, evaluate and feel their situation while providing productive advice, coaching and guidance. Without this understanding, any form of feedback and guidance may come across as disjointed, and in many instances, impractical.
Keep meetings frequent
Mentoring meetings should occur on a regular basis. Modern lives are busy, so make sure you schedule sessions well in advance and that you stick to them. Progress takes commitment and time. It is therefore advisable to meet at least once a week.
Keep meetings varied
A variety of activities will ensure your mentee develops a range of skills. A chat over coffee every week is not an efficient way to gain the breadth of skills required for professional development. Your mentee needs to be exposed to different environments and taken outside of their comfort zone.
It is of course important to sit down and review your mentee’s CV and key business documents, but also give your mentee a chance to shadow you at work, use role play to teach them how to deal with different work situations and make the time to observe them in action at work. This will give you an insight into how your mentee works, how they are progressing and enable you to provide much more useful feedback and guidance.
Respect works both ways. While your mentee must respect your experience and expertise, this must be reciprocated. Feeling valued and respected will allow you both to build a relationship of trust, and give them the confidence to perform at their very highest level.