Mentoring someone at work – such as a new employee or an intern – is a serious responsibility. You may have many doubts about how to be a good mentor, especially if you have never been in this position before. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
A mentor is an experienced person who is in a position to support and guide others through their professional journey. Mentorship establishes a relationship that helps to influence and teach someone. In a professional setting, the ultimate reason for the mentorship is to promote the professional and personal growth of the mentee.
At the core of it, being a mentor is to be a trusted advisor to someone when they need it and provide a shift in perspective by always keeping that person's interest in mind. Mentors can also help mentees build confidence by giving them recommendations and access to professional groups or networks that might be useful to them.
Learn more about the things that make you a great mentor below!
What Makes a Good Mentor at Work?
Mentoring is about providing knowledge and transferring skills. This takes time and practice as you figure out the best way to guiding your mentee while giving them enough freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.
Try to develop a mentor-mentee relationship with people you think are a good match for you. Here are a few tips on how to be a better mentor:
Communicate and listen well
Have frequent interactions where you understand the situation and challenges faced by the person you are mentoring. If they are unclear on the direction they want to go, help them achieve clarity by asking questions that will help them think for themselves. Ask them more about what they want, their aspirations, expectations, and whether they are looking for support or guidance.
Let your mentee make their own decisions
A mentor’s job is not to prescribe a solution; it is to help the mentee figure out the right direction. Hence don’t give too much of your own opinion on what they should or should not do exactly; instead, let them make their own decisions. Ultimately, they need to see their career path, and you just need to help them achieve what they want.
Give constructive criticism
Even though you don't want to judge or offer harsh criticism, do not filter too much of your feedback in order to avoid hurting them. Try to deliver appropriate feedback without breaking their confidence. The conversation should be diplomatic and tactful. You need to have more open communication that values all thoughts and feedback. This helps develop mutual trust.
If your mentee gets sensitive or defensive during these discussions, talk to them through personal anecdotes and objective data that support your points. And always pair your criticism with some viable solutions.
Check out this article on How to Give Feedback to Employees for Triggering Change
It is important to understand your mentee’s point of view and feelings. It requires being patient, curious, appreciating, and making more effort to listen. It is also important to know that each individual progresses at a different rate, so try not to have the same expectations as everyone. Each person will find their own method that works for them and is more effective.
Teach them by example
In simple words, practice what you preach. Show them by following your own principles and rules, and have the highest values in every area of your life, so you lead them by example.
Promote balance and independence
Try to allow the conversations to be more balanced between the both of you. If your mentee has something to say, listen to them. Give them more freedom to express their opinions. This will help with smoother and easier communication. It promotes an independent attitude in the mentee now that they can speak out all they want without any external help. This also ensures that the mentee listens to you carefully when you are saying something important.
Jointly celebrate the successes
It’s important to celebrate even the small successes in the journey, as these can help motivate the person and strengthen your relationship.
Tips on what not to do as a mentor
- Do not shield your mentee from problems. Stopping them from experiencing challenges can be detrimental to their success, growth, and learning.
- Do not take over your colleagues’ or mentees’ work; instead, make sure you equip them with the capabilities, tools, and resources to do it themselves.
- Do not force your opinion or make them choose the direction you want. You need to give them the freedom to make their own choices.
- When they make mistakes, do not scare them into believing that these mistakes can be career-ending disasters. Try to have an encouraging approach, including telling them personal stories of success.
- Do not use undue influence, including emotionally manipulating them, to change their professional choices according to your desires.
- Do not lose your critical oversight and play favourites.
Challenges of being a mentor
Being a mentor also comes with its own challenges. A few of them can be:
Both the mentor and the mentee can be busy and have prior commitments and responsibilities. Hence, it may be challenging to find time for your meetings. It requires an extra commitment of time and energy, which can be a challenge, at least at the beginning of mentorship. Try to commit to a pre-decided, time-bound meeting that is suitable for both of you, and stick to it.
One of the most common problems is to have unrealistic expectations by both the mentor and the mentee. In the beginning, ask your mentee about what they are expecting out of this mentorship. You can also give them an overview of what you want to do as a mentor. This will help both of you get some context about each other before you dive into the mentorship process.
Your mentee should not depend on you to make every decision. Encourage them to be more self-reliant, even from the beginning of the mentorship.
Finding personal connection
Mentoring someone with whom you do not connect can be especially challenging. It is better to find someone with similar values or someone with whom you can connect more as your mentee.
It is not easy to be an effective mentor, but the process of mentorship can be a rewarding journey when you have the right tools to help your mentees succeed.
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