Anyone can be a great workplace mentor by knowing a few important points and having a solid plan. All the info you need is in this article.
A great mentor can have an enormous influence on a person’s life. Great mentors enable their mentees to gain greater career satisfaction and achievement. In addition, great mentoring develops and supports a “shared vision of the future.”
Statistics show that in formal business mentoring programs, 84% of mentees are being helped in significant ways such as avoiding costly mistakes and growing into their roles more quickly.
You, too, can be a great mentor. It’s not difficult. You just need to know a few important points and have a solid plan.
Section I—The first mentoring meeting: Clarification
This meeting should result in a clear description of what your mentor-mentee relationship is going to look like. It is recommended to prepare for this meeting in advance by reviewing the following steps and creating your plan.
During the meeting, you will review these points with your mentee, adjusting the plan, when possible, as per your mentee’s ideas and feedback.
Step 1: Define the goals
Make a list. Include information about any known (and most likely to happen) obstacles to achieving those goals, along with possible solutions. Keep in mind that your goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound. It is a good idea to write them down in a shared document which can be updated as time goes on. By their very nature, SMART goals are realistic and success-oriented which is great for both mentor and mentee motivation.
Step 2: Describe the mentorship
Will it be F2F meetings? An e-mentorship? Perhaps a combination of both?
The data shows that e-mentoring is an effective mentoring form as long as “the goals and expectations are clarified at the beginning”—which has been done in the step above. Thus, e-mentoring can be a good option when there is limited time for F2F meetings. Text messages and chats are acceptable for daily communication. It would be unusual for a mentor to meet with their mentee every day. However, a weekly meeting is a very recommended “must.”
Weekly meetings should be one hour long. An hour a week is the recommended minimum which should be spent on a mentee. On a particular week, you may not use all the time planned for, and that is fine. To make sure these meetings happen on a regular basis, set a schedule. Of course, there will be times when meetings must be rescheduled, but having a definite schedule really helps. Add this schedule to your shared document.
Nature Magazine surveyed 6,300 graduate students about mentorship at their educational institution. One of the big reasons that respondents were dissatisfied with their mentorships was a lack of time spent with them by their mentor.
So, making sure these meetings happen should be one of your top priorities.
Step 3: Ask your mentee
Does your mentee have any requests or concerns not touched upon during the two steps above?
Listen openly to each one. Write them down on your shared document. If needed, brainstorm possible solutions or next steps. Add agreed solutions/steps to your shared document. In this first meeting, it is important to create an atmosphere of confidentiality. Your mentee should know that they can tell you anything, and you will keep it confidential, unless your mentee agrees that it can be shared.
This element builds and maintains trust—a key component of a great mentorship.
Section II—Weekly meetings: Structure and content
Whether in person or via a device, your weekly, one-hour meetings should hit the following points, updating your shared document as needed.
Step 1: Goal checking
Review the progress of each goal, noting any new obstacles or challenges. Spend about 10-15 minutes on this part.
Step 2: Give constructive feedback
Great mentors give truthful praise and clear-cut points for improvement. They include specific examples of both the positive and negative, so their mentees understand exactly what is working and what needs changing. Spend about 10-15 minutes on this part.
Step 3: The mentee’s turn
Half of the meeting (that’s right, 30 minutes) should be given for “mentee talk.” Seems like a lot? You should know that a top need of mentees is a mentor who listens, is a sounding board, and is genuinely interested in what they have to say.
Mentee talk is anything on your mentee’s mind. It could be related to the work they are doing for your company or organization, including “personal roadblocks, blindspots, or other concerns.” However, it could be an out-of-work event/situation that they are happy about or struggling with. As your mentee talks, check for clarity every so often to make sure you accurately understand what they are telling you.
Getting to know your mentee as a person is an important key to mentorship success. In the Nature survey (mentioned above), some mentors did not even know their mentee’s name. “He called me by the wrong name in the middle of my PhD,” she says. “That was a low point.” The more you know about your mentee, the better you will be able to adjust your mentoring for maximum achievement.
A last thought…
Ciara, an American musician, is quoted as saying: “As we get older, it’s important for us to help hand back some of what we’ve gained as we’ve grown older. It should be one of your responsibilities.”
And that is what great mentorship is all about. It is a sharing of what you have learned for the benefit of another, done in a genuine, humble way which reveals your mentee’s potential. It is a deep, positive connection with someone else for their good, your good, and the greater good.
As long as you keep it real and committed, you will be a great mentor.