How to be an effective Mentor

Mentoring and Coaching are so close from a skills point of view, and mentoring seems to be a more and more popular topic right now, here’s some background information:

Has mentoring become more or less popular in recent years? If so why? 

 Increasingly more popular, Dr Peter Honey says in a book review, “The explosive growth in the demand for coaching and mentoring is entirely deserved; it is because it works!”  Yes it works, but why is it needed?  Increasing competition, especially in professional services firms, where talented, knowledgeable individuals are the only collateral mandates investment in employee retention. This together with increasing demands put on career development by associates and graduates means that organisations have to pay attention to developing future talent in order to survive.

What are the most important benefits of mentoring for the mentee?

Career advice and guidance, enhancement of communication skills, learning how to be successful in a specific work environment, building specific or specialised knowledge, client / customer skills, developing new perspectives, expand personal network, the list is endless. Good mentoring will focus on skill / experience gaps and develop a plan to bridge the gap, with the mentee doing the work, and the mentor acting as guide, sounding board, listener, questioner etc.

What about the mentor?

  • On-going enhancement to own career development through sharing wisdom and experience with others within a planned process.
  • Masterful mentoring demands coaching, leadership and management skills, so this is an opportunity to enhance one’s approach across a diverse community of learners
  • Raised awareness to new thoughts, styles, personalities, and cultures which could lead to new opportunities – the mentor can learn too!
  • Often seen as a way to ‘give back’ something to one’s profession
  • Create a legacy – can be important for people who want to ensure continuing good practices and foundations upon which new developments can emerge.

What advice would you give both sides on how to get the most from the mentoring relationship?

  • Create and be committed to a mentor / mentee contract, show up, create a relationship that works.
  • Work at understanding the gaps in experience / skill then set goals and outcomes which will create tangible benefits for the mentee.
  • As the mentor avoid the temptation to tell and provide solutions, rather ask questions to establish needs and context, then work together at creating a plan of action to achieve the required results.  The mentee’s commitment will be low if told what to do, much higher if they are involved in creating and executing the plan.
  • Expect set-backs and plan for them.  Every relationship has its rocky moments, plan how to overcome difficulties. Be open, honest and transparent in all things.  If the relationship is not working know how to end it in a professional manner.
  • Ensure lines of communication are open and understood.  Plan how and when to meet and stick to it.
  • Challenge each other for best results. Mentor and mentee can both challenge e.g. pace, content, strategy, stretch, quality, commitment, relevance.
  • Be ready to be surprised. A mentoring relationship where there is mutual respect and a planned / committed approach can create extraordinary results
  • As mentor avoid the ‘I’ve seen it all before’ and ‘I know best,’ you may have, and may not!  Encourage the mentee to build on what you know to work well, and create new innovative approaches.  Celebrate new ideas and foster implications and consequences thinking to get the best results.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.