A gentleman came up to me after a leadership development workshop for a multinational financial giant saying that the senior partner in the firm has asked him to mentor a new employee. While he was pleased about being approached for this, he was quite nervous because he had never been a mentor before. It was important to him because doing this well would put him in a good light with senior management and could boost his career.
So, what exactly is mentoring? It is defined as a professional relationship in which an experienced person i.e. the mentor assists the mentee in developing specific skills and knowledge to enhance the mentee’s professional and personal growth. Some of the responsibilities that a mentor has among others are to:
- Share their own experience and learnings in similar situations
- Facilitates the mentee’s growth by sharing resources and networks
- Challenge them to move beyond their comfort zone
- Focus on enabling the mentee’s total development
Mentoring like any other skill is learned through practice and experience. Here is what to keep in mind to do it well, especially if it is your first time.
Understand why you were picked
There is a reason why you were picked for this responsibility. Try and think of what that might be. If it escapes you, ask the person who assigned it to you in the first place to get more clarity. You could say, “I am pleased to be doing this. To be able to do a better job could you tell me more about which aspects of their career I must focus on?”
In the past, the gentleman I mentioned earlier, had transformed himself by grooming his appearance to present himself to vital clients. He shared that he had put in a lot of effort on himself. Even though he did not talk about it, the senior management had noticed. And therefore asked him to mentor the new employee in certain aspects of presentation.
Prepare for the engagement
Make sure you plan the engagement out. Have an informal contract in place on frequency, duration and mode of meetings. This will enable you both to take it seriously and be equally vested in the process. With the pressures of day to day work this may slip as something unimportant. However, mentoring has the potential of having most impact on a person’s success.
Look at it as a two-way relationship
Mentoring can be an incredibly enriching relationship for both the mentor and the mentee. While a mentor’s responsibility is to guide the mentee towards success in the area where a mentor has prior experience, there is a lot for the mentor to gain too. Know that the time you spend on mentoring will improve your leadership skills. If you look at it as a two-way partnership, you will feel more vested and engaged in the process. It will enable the mentee to be more open which will ensure success for both.
Becoming a mentor is a privilege. If you ever get an opportunity to be one, jump at it even if you are not sure how to do it. You will get better at it by doing more of it. There is no right or wrong to it. Being committed to the well-being of your mentee is all that it takes. Becoming good at mentoring is sure to fast track your own career.
(Views expressed are personal. )
The author is founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners, a Bengaluru-based global leadership development company. She is a leadership development specialist, an ICF certified executive coach and author of the book Team Decision Making.