Mentoring the right way
The benefits of mentoring are myriad. Studies have shown that effective mentoring can lead to greater career success, including promotions, raises, and increased opportunities.
It’s however important to remember that mentoring is not a magic wand that automatically creates success. The truth is that effective mentoring takes effort, and creating successful mentoring relationships requires specific skills, sensibilities, and structure from both the mentor and the mentee.
It is therefore imperative that to create a positive environment for mentorship the three key ingredients are to be observed:
- The mentor
- The mentee
- The relationship
A very important aspect to consider while choosing a mentor is their personality. You should feel their sincerity in the way they present their desire to help you. Good mentors are passionate about their yearning to help others and receive their rewards in seeing the people they have helped become successful.
A mentor should fit you. Often, people will try to manipulate you over your life and career, trying to become an influencer and develop you in the way that worked for them, or that they think is best. In doing so, the attitude of the mentee shifts and as opposed to seeing the mentor as a model they view them as someone that is in search for validation. A good mentor is therefore one who comes up with a strategy that fits your needs, talents, skills, and desires and push you towards a better you as opposed to a clone of themselves.
Another valuable trait in a mentor is the understanding that it is ok to be an expert and not know something. A mentor that can answer a question with, "don't know, but I will find you an answer" is someone worth spending time with. Good mentors will be excited to share their knowledge with you and be willing to explore the possibility that you may have answers that they do not.
Mentors should know how to be tactful in their conversations, and be emotionally intelligent. Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of emotions in others and oneself, and be able to make decisions and influence others while controlling emotions and feeling empathy for those they are dealing with. Mentors should shy away from being judgmental of others, voice their opinions of people, or talk down about others.
While focusing on the mentor, it should not be lost on us that it always takes two to tango. Mentees must remember that mentors are doing this from the goodness of their heart, so being a good mentee is the best way to ensure the relationship enjoys a healthy purposeful existence.
Like any other relationship, your mentorship must be suited to fit your needs. But also like in any other relationship, your mentor will not be able to read your mind, so telling them what you need from them will allow you to flourish as a good mentee. Be honest if you need something to change and let them know if you don’t understand something.
As a mentee always have the flexibility to learn. This starts from having a positive mind, appreciating experience and taking the lessons from them that suit you.
The Mentoring Relationship
A mentoring relationship must be managed and nurtured. It is a joint venture that requires both parties to actively attend to its care and feeding. The chances of creating and sustaining a successful mentoring relationship are enhanced by adopting a few simple best practices.
Design the Alliance
Take the time discuss the structure of the relationship. Both parties need to have a shared understanding of the relationship process. This means discussing and articulating things like:
- Confidentiality: What’s shareable and what isn’t?
- Focus: What are the parameters of the mentoring? What’s in and out of bounds?
- Feedback: What are the expectations around giving and receiving feedback?
- Goals and accountability: What would each party want from this experience? How does the mentee want the mentor to hold her accountable? How does the mentor want the mentee to hold her accountable?
A mentoring relationship is like any other relationship—it takes time to develop. And like other relationships, it will grow faster and stronger if both parties take the time to get to know each other as people. Resist the temptation to dive head first into career problem solving and advising. Build trust by learning about each other.
Mentoring is a great opportunity to deliver a rewarding and potentially life-changing experience for both the mentor and the mentee. It is one of the most important things a person can do to enhance their career and professional life. It takes time and commitment, but it is well worth the effort. Whether you are the mentor or the mentee, it’s a win-win for your career/personal growth.
Stanley Milimu: Officer, Resolution