Mentorship: 3 Tips on How to Do It Right

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Mentorship

The post-pandemic great resignation was felt across all sectors, and even now the war for talent rages on. Employers are scrambling to fill open positions — all the while searching for ways to keep their existing employees satisfied.

Although these issues can be mitigated to some degree by rethinking corporate recruitment, Forbes explains that “there’s another often-overlooked tool that organisations can lean on to help employees feel connected and valued in the workplace: a mentor.”

Research suggests that organisations that embrace mentoring often enjoy greater employee engagement, retention, and knowledge sharing. In fact, it has become so beneficial that a whopping 92% of Fortune 500 companies use mentoring programmes to engage, develop and retain their precious talent.

So what’s the key to being a successful mentor? Here are three tips for effective mentoring.

Consider what you can offer

Mentors have a responsibility to provide guidance and support to their mentees. By considering what you can offer, you can ensure they are providing relevant and valuable insights and advice that will help your mentee achieve their goals.

It also helps to set realistic expectations. If you overpromise or are unable to provide the guidance and support your mentee needs, it can lead to disappointment and frustration. By considering what you can offer, you can establish boundaries and communicate clearly with your mentee about the scope of the mentorship.

Considering what you can offer can also help to identify areas where you may need to improve your skills or knowledge. This can, in turn, help you to grow and develop as a mentor and provide better guidance to future mentees.

Select the right mentee

Once you have aligned what you can offer with the needs of the mentee, when shortlisting, you’ll want to identify someone who demonstrates a positive attitude, an openness to feedback, and a willingness to learn.

Skills can be taught, but attitude can’t, Dave Schoenbeck, a business and executive coach, explains. 

“The most important trait to look for when you find a mentee is a genuine ability to listen. An employee can have all the potential in the world, but if you can’t coach them, neither of you will get anything out of the relationship.”

Unconscious bias is something that you, as a first-time mentor, should also be mindful of. One subtype is affinity bias. The EW Group explains that this kind of bias “will lead management to unintentionally prefer people who share the same qualities with them.” It’s human nature to gravitate towards people who remind us of ourselves, but as you’re in a position of authority, you should be mindful of attitudes or stereotypes that may affect your decision-making, as this could block you from selecting the most suitable mentee.

Set expectations

According to the mentoring platform Together, there are eight types of workplace mentors — what type are you? You could be a ‘coach,’ a ‘protector,’ an ‘affirmer,’ or something else entirely. So, before you begin your mentorship, take time to learn about yourself and your values, strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. If you go into the relationship confident in what you can bring to the table, then you will be able to set clear expectations for what the dynamic with your mentee will look like.

Setting clear expectations is an important aspect of mentoring. Your boundaries should be articulated clearly in order to develop a trusting and productive relationship. Boundaries provide a direction for the mentorship and help to ensure that both parties are committed to the process. This will also create a sense of accountability, which can encourage the mentee to stay motivated and focused. Without this, both parties may experience confusion, frustration, and ultimately a lack of progress.

Let them take the wheel

You ‘know better’ than the fledgling employee sitting in front of you, so you should be directing the mentoring conversations, right? Wrong. It can be easy to fall into the trap of speaking too much (or worse, lecturing) to your mentee, and doing far more talking than listening.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t reflect on your own experiences, as mentors should definitely share their wisdom. However, a great teacher isn’t there to rehash old memories or boast about their success, but rather to help guide their mentee towards their own. Ten Thousand Coffees advises: “Even though mentors may have more experience, each mentoring session should be a back-and-forth dialogue where the mentor prompts critical thinking and self-evaluation.”

Similarly, you should not just tell your mentee what to do or how to approach tasks. Your role is to guide and empower, not solve problems for them. Just telling them what to do will disrupt the original purpose of mentoring: working through challenges together to achieve growth.