The Art of Mentoring
Mentorship is a mutually beneficial relationship between an experienced leader and a newer-in-the-workforce employee. If you had the benefit of a mentor when you were starting, you already know how rewarding the relationship can be. As a mentee, you likely benefited from your mentor’s years of experience and business perspective. While the mentor benefits from honing their leadership skills and gaining some personal fulfillment and satisfaction. If you have the time, you should give mentorship some serious thought. Many deserving people would be happy to gain access to your insight and leadership. And before you begin, some things to consider.
Expectations and Logistics
First, find out if your organization has a formal mentor program and inquire about what is involved. If there is not a structured program, then you might want to spend some time outlining an ideal plan. A few basics to consider:
- What are you hoping to get out of the experience and what specific skills can you bring?
- How much time can you realistically and sustainably commit to the relationship?
- How often and in what forms will you meet/communicate?
- What specific goals are you willing to help your mentee meet?
Keep it Professional
While it is vital for you and your mentee to build a trusting relationship, you should keep it professional. Establish and agree on your boundaries in the very beginning. Your role is a mentor, not a therapist. As an older and more experienced advisor, your instinct may be to solve problems your mentee presents, but there will be some issues that are not for you to resolve. A personal issue that is impeding professional growth should ultimately be the mentee’s issue. To ensure that you both have the same expectations have a conversation early on about what topics are not on the table. Likely you will be thankful you had that talk when emotions are not running high.
As our friends at iLoveFeedback® will tell you: useful feedback is essential. And since you are not giving feedback to a direct report, you should be mindful of the structure and content you give to your mentee. Again, a conversation in the beginning to establish these guidelines will be helpful in the long run. Keep your feedback framework in mind and deliver messages that are encouraging and energizing. As a mentor, there could be a time when you are one of the few (or only) positive voices for your mentee when working through a challenging time.
Think Long Term
Your mentoring relationship will likely be long-term. Before you start, you should be committed for a year, possibly more. In all fairness, if you can't commit to the longer term, you shouldn't start. Your goal should not only be mentoring this person but to bring along another trustworthy mentor. Create a trusting relationship, get into a positive mindset, and use the very best of your experience to enlighten. Your legacy will be your mentee becoming just as good of a mentor for the next person.
Begin with the end in mind. Keep your messages positive – even when offering criticism, look for solutions, and remember where you struggled when you were less experienced. Your input can be an invaluable asset.
And don't forget...
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