A mentor is “an experienced and trusted adviser”. It is recommended that if you want to be a good leader, you should pick people to pull up behind you. Pick people you want to help to develop and shape.
Being a mentor is something you have to learn to do, the same as anything else. So here are a few things to keep in mind to be a great mentor.
There are a handful of things that you should do to be a great mentor that you hear often. These things are often quite self-explanatory, but they are worth mentioning. They are:
- Leading by example
- Trying to be a good role model
- Being approachable and available
- Setting goals with your mentee
- Being honest
These will all help foster a relationship between you and your mentee. They will establish trust and respect. Doing these things will ensure that your mentee feels comfortable coming to you for advice and tips
Share your own mistakes
You are trying to help this person grow, so show them how you have grown. Tell them about ways have messed up, what mistakes have you made along the way? How have you learned from them?
When they see that their mentor has made mistakes, they will not be as afraid to make their own. They will know mistakes are normal and will approach them as a learning experience, and not something to be afraid of.
You can show them that mistakes are sometimes the best way to grow.
Get to know your mentee
The best way to help your mentee grow is to get to know them personally, and that must come from a genuine, well-meaning place.
People are diverse individuals, so their dreams and fears are going to be vastly different. How you wanted to grow or how your last mentee wanted to grow is going to be different than how they do. But in order to figure out in what ways, you must get to know them.
Here are some things to ask them:
- What did they do this weekend?
- What are their hobbies?
- How did they get into said hobbies?
- What would be the perfect day off?
- What are their values?
- Do they have any pets?
- What did they want to be as a kid?
Some questions should be a little more thought-provoking, so you can get to know who they are at their core. But some can be fun too because people are not serious all the time.
Getting to know your mentee on such a level will only help develop your relationship and strengthen the trust between you two.
Tailor your approach
Tailoring your approach to the individual is going to give you the best results.
Here are some things a mentor needs to learn about their mentee:
- How do they learn best? By watching you do something or by them doing it themselves?
- What is the best way to deliver feedback to them?
- In what way do they like to be congratulated?
- Do they work better in group settings or on their own?
- Are they likely to reach out to you if they have a problem or question? Or will you need to check on them?
All these things you should be able to figure out through getting to know them. Some you will figure out on your own and some you will need to ask your mentee about directly.
One size is not going to fit all; you are going to have to approach each mentee differently. Some learning methods work really well for some people and not at all for others. Just like some things worked for you and some did not. You need to know which side of the spectrum your mentee falls on.
Celebrate their achievements
Your mentee is learning a bunch of new things, that is really hard. You have to be sure you are not just speaking to them when you are offering feedback or advice. You do not want to only be around when they are making a mistake.
That is going to sour the relationship as they are going to associate their mentor with making mistakes. You want their image of you to be more well-rounded.
So, celebrate when they do well! Learning new things is hard, they need to remember to be proud of themselves.
Keep in mind, you also have to tailor this to them as well. Do they prefer to be celebrated publicly, like in a meeting? Or would they rather you just stopped by their desk and told them ‘good job’?
You want to make sure your encouragement is being well received and making them feel good and empowered, not stressing them out further.
Know when to give advice
You do not have to give advice in the moment.
I know that may seem like a foreign concept and a bit backward, but it is true.
There are times when you may not know the answer and need to find more information. Or maybe you were a bit overwhelmed by the discussion and need time to think your answer through.
It is okay to take time to answer. Simply let them know you heard what they said or asked, and then tell them you need to find more information, or that you would like to sit with it a bit. Then give them a time when you can come back to the discussion-try to be within the next 24 hours.
That way you are not shutting them down and telling them they cannot come to you with this. As their mentor, you are here to help. You just do not have the answer yet.
This will also provide a great example for them when they need time to find an answer themselves!
Seek out opportunities for your mentee
As a mentor, you are trying to help them grow as individuals and in their careers, so be actively looking for ways to do so.
- What skills did they express they wanted to improve on?
- What were the goals you established?
- In what ways can you push them a little?
- What skills do you want to develop in them?
This can be done in several ways. It can be done simply by volunteering them for a project-or pushing them to volunteer. Are there any classes they can take or seminars they can attend?
You will probably see an opportunity before they do, especially if you are actively looking for them. They may be focused solely on keeping up with their work and what they are learning.
The goal is to help your mentee grow; this is how you do that.
Being a mentor is an incredibly rewarding experience. If it is something that interests you, you should definitely try it. Most companies and communities have programs already in place.
Keep these tips in mind and go for it!
Additional articles you might be interested in:
- How to Be More Confident As A Business Leader
- 5 Practical Leadership Behaviors That Will Lead Your Team To Success
- Why Accepting Your Flaws Will Make You A Better Leader
- 5 Qualities That Define Great Leadership
- 5 Books Every Leader Needs On Her Bookshelf
Grace Lopykinski is a blogging intern at LadyBossBlogger. She has graduated from the University of Tennessee with a BS in Business Administration and a minor in English.