There is no doubt that mentoring programs are a successful tool in business. Consider some of the following 2023 statistics that support this stance from Gitnux’s The Most Surprising Mentoring Statistics And Trends in 2023:
of fortune 500s have formal mentoring programs
feel positively about growth due to such relationships
of mentor/mentees found it valuable for improving skills
of millennials want a mentor, 55% believe it will enhance career prospects
of mentored employees more likely to stay with employers
9 out of 10 HR decision makers see mentorship as top talent development metrics
But what about guidelines for being a successful mentor?
Mentors are often selected because of their seniority, but not given specific advice on how to successfully be a mentor to others. Since mentorship is a volunteer effort, the results can vary widely. If you are currently a mentor, or considering being one in the near future, here are some tips to get you off to the right start:
STEP ONE: Set a Realistic Schedule and Show Up Prepared
Mentorship falls apart quickly when the mentor has an issue with keeping up their end of the relationship. It’s not surprising, since mentoring is a volunteer activity and can be easily pushed aside in moments of crunch time. But what if moments of crunch time are coming up on a regular basis?
Recommended Approach: Determining a regular schedule and keeping it is key. Don’t over promise to meet frequently and then cancel. Instead start slowly, by committing to meet once a month or even once every other month, then increase the cadence if needed as you feel comfortable. When you do meet, make sure you aren’t rushed or joining the session with a blank slate. Come prepared with a couple of probing/thoughtful questions to make sure you are helping guide the conversation.
STEP TWO: Listen (Really Listen)
Mentoring can fall flat when the mentor spends most of the time doing the talking. We’ve seen this firsthand at Corporate Path Leadership – where a mentor views their seniority and mentor status as a great opportunity to share “war stories” from the past. As much as those stories can be fun to share, if they don’t directly help the mentee, then they aren’t worth telling.
Recommended Approach: A better approach is to make sure to listen. Just like in an interview, the mentee should be doing more than 50% of the talking. A seasoned mentor will know how to ask the right questions, listen for answers, and then repeat the process to get a full understanding of what the mentee is experiencing, and where they need guidance.
STEP THREE: Guide Future Goals
Mentoring involves interaction and ultimately sharing insights and advice. But random advice and thoughts aren’t as useful if they don’t tie to a specific action plan for the mentee. In step two, the process of listening and asking probing questions should help the mentor understand the current status and state of the mentee, and what areas they want to focus on for future evolution.
Recommended Approach: Once you’ve established the relationship and have uncovered those areas of possible improvement, focus your time and energy on helping the mentee understand future goals that they should aspire to. Some of the goals can be short term (next 6-12 months), but other goals should be long term (5+ years down the road).
STEP FOUR: Focus on “Homework”
Conversations are great. But what should the mentee being focused on between sessions?
Recommended Approach: Make sure not only to come prepared for each mentoring session with a list of possible probing questions, but also plan to give the mentee some homework assignments. This could be documenting their behavior and contributions to certain meetings or projects — to better learn how they are not just contributing in a tactical way, but in a leadership way as well. You might focus time at the beginning of a session to have the mentee share some of the homework insights and progress, and then end the session with a new assignment.
STEP FIVE: Remember, You Can Learn Too!
Just because you have been identified as a mentor, doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the mentee as well.
Make sure to reflect on your own career experiences and areas where you can improve and take advantage of working with a mentee to learn from their perspective. It might be as simple as understanding how a different generation gives and takes direction, or how they might approach a challenge differently from you. You never know when one of your next best insights might come from someone you are trying to mentor!
Contact Us Today
We make it easy to jump start success. Simply contact us and share your current team challenge or need, and we’ll respond with program ideas to innovate your team performance.