Mentors hold an important space for everyone they mentor. Given how much is invested in a mentee, mentors must select their candidates with great care.
Whether you are considering becoming a mentor to someone for the first time, or whether you are a seasoned mentor, we suggest that there are at least ten things that you must be doing in that mentorship role.
1. Set the standard
As a mentor, it is important to realise that you hold tremendous power. It is a little like a parent with a child, who learns much through observation. What you do, how you do it, how ethically you do it, how efficiently you work, how you treat those around you, and other details – which you may take for granted – will be observed by those your mentor. Many of your habits, both good and bad, could become the modus operandi for these individuals. As a result, it is important that you set the highest of standards for yourself.
2. Dedicate the time
As a mentor, you must have the time available to dedicate to those whom you mentor. Whilst formal time is one thing, consider that your mentee may need your input and advice at short notice. You must be able to find time in the day to assist on these occasions.
3. Sounding board
As an experienced business person, you have a wonderful toolkit of knowledge and experience from which to draw. Your mentee must be invited to benefit from that knowledge, through using their mentor as a sounding board. Whilst it is not healthy to create dependency, it is beneficial to encourage your mentee to bounce their ideas off you, and other experienced parties, in order that they may bring their best, and the best solution for the business to the table.
3. Strong functional knowledge
It is unlikely that you’ll be in high position without good functional knowledge. You must be able to offer sound functional advice when it is requested. Make sure therefore that you continue to develop your functional knowledge.
4. Excellent people skills
The more senior our position, the more work is effected through others. People skills therefore become an increasingly important aspect of our well-roundedness as managers. Be prepared to share everything you know, and to guide and help shape and form this future leader.
5. Navigate the politics
Navigating corporate politics is essential if you are going to succeed at the corporate game. Many people are not born with a natural gift to calculate who is on which side, and why, and what to do about it – if anything. Helping those coming through the ranks to understand the game of politics and play it well is an essential attribute as a mentor.
6. Truthful feedback
If you are going to undertake the role of a mentor, then you must be prepared to offer truthful feedback to your mentee. The gift of feedback is necessary if your mentee is to correct their areas of weakness. Not offering them this feedback is compromising their future, and you therefore need to be well versed in tackling sensitive behaviours and matters.
7. Mapping a career plan
Your mentee is likely seeking career progression, which is why they have chosen to be mentored. Part of your role is to help them gain clarity on what career path to follow, and which stakeholders must be engaged along that journey. Likely, much thought and reflection will be required to develop this plan, given its significance.
8. Opening doors
A key role of a mentor is to open doors for the mentee that s/he is not able to open for themselves. It’s about making an introduction, putting their name forward for a new role, or a big project that they may thrive in, or introducing them to other individuals at your level who may become mentors too.
9. Become a champion
As your role as a mentor, you would ideally become the champion for your mentee within your organisation and industry. Given the opportunity, and correct context, you would promote your mentee as an individual ripe for fast tracking, a new role, a big project, etc. You become their chair leader within the organisation.
The individual that you are mentoring must be inspired to reach, and even exceed, the levels that you have achieved. Whilst it is important to be open and honest about the stresses that executive life holds, it is equally important to inspire mentees to achieve to their greatest potential. Teaching stress-coping mechanisms also becomes part of the knowledge that you impart.
Being a mentor is serious business. Not only must you as the mentor be confident to share your knowledge and personal IP, but you must also be comfortable and confident in recommending your mentee when opportunities present. It is clear therefore that the process of choosing a mentor, and the mentor choosing a mentee, is not one to be taken lightly.
You may be interested to read another of our articles on mentorship found here.
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