Mentors are more than just your average managers. They are a step above the typical leader who directs the employees under them, Mentors help those they manage to grow and develop new skills, help solve problems, and form great relationships with those they manage. They're on the front lines working side-by-side with employees to find answers to challenges and complete projects together.
You may have a bunch of really great leadership skills, but if you can't mentor those under you to become better employees, your company will never reach its full potential! Through mentorship, every employee is empowered and given the tools to progress along their Succession Pathway to increase their skills and ultimately, improve their contribution to your company. Here are 5 ways to become a great mentor:
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what someone has to say” - Bryant H. McGill
Whether you are in a job interview or listening to your uncle tell you about one of his old war stories for the umpteenth time, listening is one of the most important skills anyone can develop.
Most people don’t realize how much patience you need to have in order to be a good listener. Patience to really allow yourself to understand what is being said helps with bridging communication barriers. The problem people have when it comes to not listening properly (as strange as that may sound) comes from many different psychological places. Check out this article to find out why you are not listening as well as you can be.
2. Provide constructive criticism
Your mentees may be showing you their best work, and without really knowing them well enough to say, “Come on! You can do better than that,” it may be challenging to know how you can challenge them further. There is a pretty fine line, when it comes to mentoring, between being discouraging and providing constructive feedback. Provide feedback that will allow them to run with many more ideas; do not just give out answers. You want your mentees to outthink you and be creative in their approach to problem-solving. Be Specific with your feedback the more specific you are with what you want your mentees to do, the better the results you will get from them. Use the feedback sandwich method to get your point across while still focusing on the good things your mentee did. In addition, focus on the issue and never patronize or make your mentee doubt their value with any comment that you provide. If the ultimate goal is to get them to improve, it is far better to do it in an encouraging manner as opposed to any well-intentioned “tough love” manner.
3. Keep an open schedule
Open communication is key to engaging with your mentee. Life is incredibly busy, and we are liable to forget to update our calendars. So, everyone is allowed one here and there, but for the most part, it is very important to remember that you need to be there for your mentee as they may need assistance. In the beginning it will be much more frequent, but, as time goes on, they will need it less and less. Aside from the obvious reasons, there are reasons as to why you want to keep that line of communication as open as possible. One of the most important reasons being that there is a fine line between being attentive to non-existent if you drop the ball. It’s so much easier to have an engaged audience when you are in person, but digitally, it can be a lot more difficult since everyone is remote.
4. Keep an open mind
When someone has a good idea or a question how do you typically respond? Are you encouraging and inviting of new ideas or do you prefer a more structured and rigid way of doing things? While both can come in handy at various times, for the most part, you want to be open minded. When it comes to a mentor/mentee relationship, you want to be especially open because when you give others the power to think for themselves and solve their own problems, you are opening the door to coming up with a new way to do old things. It can be really hard to hear an idea that is better than yours, and as a mentor, it can be challenging to accept other ideas if they are perceived as better, but important to implement them nonetheless. Never compromise the success of the overall task because of pride, vanity or any other reason you may not want to accept other’s ideas. You never know, learning to keep an open mind can open your eyes in ways you never even imagined.
5. Show that you genuinely care/compassion
Lastly, when in a mentor/mentee relationship, compassion goes a long way. Compassion is something everyone practices in life in a myriad of circumstance. As a mentor, showing compassion can mean validating others, showing kindness, respecting others, learning how to advocate, expressing yourself and most importantly, showing encouragement. The reason that showing compassion is one of the most important things you can do as a mentor is because your mentees will feed off that energy and shine in their work. People are always more concerned with doing good and putting their best foot forward in general when they feel like there is a purpose or good reason to do it. In this case, you will not only engage further with your mentee, but you will demonstrate what a good leader consists of.
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