Five Quick Mentoring Lessons
Mentoring is such a gift. We mentor people naturally as we are influencing people in the workplace, but how can we best pour into people who look to us for guidance and advice? If you have business experience along with a track record of success, people will want what you have. I’m a firm believer that if you invest time and effort into growing others, we will build up people who will do things better than we ever dreamed of doing on our own. Be intentional and selective with those you formally mentor. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting your time, and theirs.
Formal mentoring can be as “formal” as you’d like it to be. Here are five of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way. You will be able to quickly measure the impact of employing each strategy by how quickly you your relationship and their success grow.
1. Identify non-work challenges that are impacting the mentee’s growth.
We’re not just what we do for work. I’ve had mentees think that if they asked me for advice about challenges they were experiencing outside the workplace, I might view that as weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. We’re complex beings, and we don’t leave our personal lives at the door when we enter the workplace. What we’re dealing with outside of work impacts our ability to be successful inside. I consider it an honor when a mentee trusts me enough to share personal challenges so we can partner to strategize through them. Your life experience may also see what’s just up ahead for them if they don’t change course! And, from my worldview, it also allows me to keep them in prayer!
2. Listen to your mentee – really listen:
Your mentees have a lot to say and they depending on the depth of your relationship, they may not know how to say it! It’s tempting to hear a few details and offer up a detailed list of steps the mentee could take to fix a problem. But I’ve learned the benefit of really listening instead. Instead of offering advice, I ask follow up questions about what I’m hearing them say. I find working through these questions often results in the mentee coming to a new understanding of the challenge, and coming up with solutions on their own. One young woman I mentor is struggling with gaining respect from her older more experienced colleagues. Instead of giving her a list of ways she could earn respect, we talk through the details of situations where she feels disrespected. As she describes the interactions, we break them apart as I probe with questions. As she talks each situation through I find she often has “ah ha” moments. The back and forth allows her the time to look into each situation from a different angle. Armed with this new outlook she plans a new approach.
3. Take time to understand the mentee’s industry so you can understand their professional challenges.
You certainly don’t have to do this. We all have skills that span across industries and we don’t need to expand our horizons to offer lessons to mentees. However, I’ve found this extra step grows us both! Now that I’m an author, I frequently find myself with the opportunity to mentor women from a variety of industries who come to know me through my books. When I agree to formally mentor someone, I believe his or her growth is worth my investment of time. I spend time exploring the mentee’s industry and how they fit into it so I’m better prepared to ask questions and delve into situations in a helpful and intelligent way. This not only helps me to connect with my mentees regardless of their industry, but it makes me smarter, too!
4. Give homework.
Consider giving a few pieces of “homework” at the end of each mentoring session. This should be simple but thoughtful, and might include things like, “Make a list about….”, or, “Find and read a blog on…” This ensures the time you’re investing in teaching has a chance to stick as the mentee continues to think about the points you’re exploring together.
5. Follow your meeting with a quick written note, either electronically or hand-written.
Follow up with a written note regarding your meeting. This gives you both a good jumping off point for next time. It will also give you insights into growth as these written notes progress.
Any good mentor/mentee relationship grows both parties. Mentoring takes time, mutual respect and commitment, and it can be the most rewarding thing you ever get to do.