As a manager, passing on what you know is something you do every day but what skills do you need to develop to be an effective mentor and is it possible to be someone’s mentor as well as their manager?
A mentor is a guide who can assist and help navigate someone to learn faster and more effectively than they might do alone.
Mentors encourage and support.
They use their own skills, experience and useful contacts, to direct and advise their mentee in ways that will help with their short or long term objectives.
There are many benefits to acting as a mentor but to be truly effective, mentors should build skills in key areas.
Key mentoring skills and habits
Firstly, a good mentor can recognize and maintain confidentiality and boundaries, especially avoiding drifting in to areas that might be more suitable for say, counselling.
They can listen well, are able to ask challenging, insightful questions and also, know when to give the mentee space to work out problems for themselves, helping them develop quicker.
Finally, they are able to maintain emotional distance and understand the importance of tracking and measuring success.
Before you agree to work together with someone, make sure the chemistry is right.
Clear agreement is vital at the beginning of the relationship so that the mentee understands what they will get out of it.
And that’s not just about what they SAY they want.
Part of the mentor’s job is to challenge in a constructive way what the other person says.
So if the mentor thinks the expectations of what can be achieved are unrealistic, or, conversely, the mentor thinks they can add something the mentee hasn’t thought of, they should include that in the discussion.
Be very clear about boundaries and confidentiality. If you have a relationship, business or otherwise, outside of the mentoring relationship, what happens then?
One of the keys to a successful mentoring relationship is to have an independent viewpoint which can be very difficult to do if you are the person’s line manager.
A mentee might hold back from saying something to their mentor if that person is also their line manager. And there may be power or authority issues in a manager/employee relationship which don’t translate well when you introduce an element of mentoring.
There is no greater way of appreciating what you know than by passing information on to others and there can be a great deal of satisfaction in seeing your client progress in their development and grow in confidence.
From the mentee’s perspective, the opportunity to have a confidential space in which to try out new ideas, be stretched and challenged, get positive acknowledgement of ideas and action and be introduced to useful new contacts – all from someone who has ‘been there and done that’ – can be not only invaluable, but life changing.
Mentoring relationships can be very rewarding for both parties. Understanding – and addressing – some of the common pitfalls before you start can only enhance the experience.
“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves” Steven Spielberg