Mentoring is a genuine commitment to helping the career development of a less experienced, less knowledgeable colleague. At its best, mentoring is a collaboration that is truly shared. Done well by both the mentor and mentee, the relationship may have an important impact and result in significantly enhancing the mentee’s contributions to the company.
There is no one set approach to mentoring. It can be an informal arrangement, though it works best when mentors feel a strong sense of responsibility and have an attitude of truly wanting to help further a colleague’s career. It is really an intentional, developmental relationship.
Yesterday, I had an insightful discussion with Lulu Gonella of LWG Consulting about mentoring and its potential power. Lulu is one of my heroes in our field. She believes mentoring works best when the relationship is “organic,” i.e., when two people naturally form an informal but intentional relationship. She also believes the mentor being a role model can further enhance the benefits for the mentee.
The tone of the relationship is very important. To quote the Center for Creative Leadership’s (CCL) guidebook about mentoring, “the capacity of the mentor to influence rests heavily on her or his ability to relate in a non-authoritative way,” while guiding the mentee’s learning and growth.
So, how to begin? It would be helpful to begin with an assessment of the mentee’s competencies and areas of potential growth. Again, to borrow from CCL, assessment areas include:
- Strengths, goals
- Blind spots, biases, vulnerabilities
- Self-awareness, self-image
- Receptivity to and use of feedback
- Readiness to be mentored
- Receptivity to you as a mentor
In my work with clients, I have found that mentoring works best when the person is ready, accepts that seeking continuous improvement is a strength, not a weakness, and has the motivation and drive to work toward specific goals.
If this works as you intend, and it certainly can if you commit to it and follow through, there should be personal satisfaction and fulfillment for you, as mentor, and for the mentee. By bringing out the best in your colleague, that person will have a greater ability to be an effective teammate and contribute positively to the company culture. He or she will perform on a higher level, serving clients with more energy and enthusiasm, and helping the company succeed.
Here are some specific guidelines for mentoring:
- Set expectations and goals together.
- Be open and honest with each other about progress, and how the relationship is working.
- Recognize that there must be compatibility, respect, trust and available time.
- Trust can be enhanced if both you and your mentee are comfortable allowing yourselves to be vulnerable with one another.
- As a mentor, recognize the need to be both challenging and encouraging.
Here’s is a link to a worthwhile quick read by Dana Theus, another very capable leadership and management consultant and founder of InPower Women.
It is certainly true that everybody is already very busy, and taking on a mentoring relationship is an added and important responsibility. Yet, I feel confident that you will discover a deep sense of satisfaction in helping a colleague develop. You will likely further enhance your own feedback and relationships skills, and certainly continue your own learning and growth.