February 15, 2023 3 Min Read
How To Be A Good Mentor
Taking on a role as a mentor to a fellow employee is an important responsibility. Your guidance and support can be critical to career decisions that the mentee makes, as well as growing your company’s bench strength, whether as future leaders, or passionate individual contributors.
What Does a Mentor Do?
With that in mind, here are some suggestions on how to approach being a good mentor. First, let’s be clear about what a mentor does. A mentor is someone who helps a less experienced fellow employee grow their skills, make better decisions, and gain new perspectives on their life and career. A mentor is not in the telling business, but rather is a good questioner and listener.
A mentor should give thought to the subject or knowledge areas that are relevant to the organization, in which they have expertise, and a passion for sharing. Ask yourself, what has your experience taught you that would be helpful to someone else, rather than them finding out the hard way? That relevant expertise or knowledge often provides a common starting point for the development of a trusted mentor-mentee relationship.
Mentoring is a Relationship
Building a mentor-mentee relationship is like other relationship building. At its foundation is trust and then a rapport that indicates mutual respect and a willingness to help. The mentor-mentee relationship shares another common experience – the organization you both work for. As a mentor you will want to serve the interests of both your mentor and your organization by demonstrating positive intent around issues that originate with the organization such as its culture, structure, and policies. Don’t criticize, but seek to explain the why behind it.
Being positive is not the only tone to take as a good mentor. Sometimes, the situation calls for the mentor to give direct, blunt and honest feedback to the mentee. A good mentor knows how to give good constructive feedback that helps the mentee learn and grow. Your wisdom gives you a perspective to call out career-limiting behavior or short-sighted thinking.
Is Mentoring Like Coaching?
Mentoring and coaching share some commonalities. Among them are questioning and listening skills which are displayed with empathy. A good coach and mentor believes that the individual has the power to solve their issues but needs help in finding the answer or getting clarity on the problem. Display your curiosity with open-ended questions such as “Tell me more about that” and “What else have you tried or are thinking about?” As a mentor, empathy should flow naturally because in all likelihood you have been there and done that.
Make the Most of Your Investment
As a final thought, consider that as a mentor, you are making an investment. You are investing your time and that of your organization. You already have a job and mentoring is typically a voluntary action on your part. A good mentor wants a great return on this investment. That comes by approaching mentorship for the long-term, with patience for the set backs, or lack of immediate results. Your payback will be the joy and satisfaction of helping someone grow in their life and career, as well as burnishing your personal brand as a leader who gives back.
Congratulations for taking on the role of mentor and may your conversations be fruitful.