Mentorship is important especially when a relationship occurs between professionals within the same industry. Research shows mentoring is an efficient way for the mentor and mentee to develop new skills and navigate their careers.
Mentoring can benefit your employees and develop your business as it improves productivity. Let’s dive into mentoring, what it means, and how it can impact your business.
A mentor is a successful senior partner or leader who wishes to pass on their learnings and skills to someone they feel might benefit from their experience. Unlike management relationships, mentoring is voluntary on both sides and often unpaid. The notion of mentoring is very charitable. It stems from a desire to pass on skills to the next generation.
Some organisations run formal mentoring programs and have paid mentorships with a defined goal.
Mentorships are based on strong personal relationships and involve mutual respect, trust, and good communication.
Becoming a good mentor can be crucial for your success if you are a business owner or employer. What are the ways to become a good mentor?
Build a mentoring framework
Establishing firm ground rules at the start of the mentorship can help you immensely. Being a mentor can often mean blurred boundaries and expectations. You ensure expectations are met by creating a framework and establishing ground rules.
At the start of the mentorship, get together with your mentee and ask important questions like:
Why do they believe they need a mentor?
Why have they chosen you as their mentor?
What is their goal? (can be time-based)
What do they hope to achieve under your mentorship?
Even if you know the answers to these questions, it’s better to have everything cleared up. Once these questions are answered, you can offer them a framework consisting of:
The number of times you will be meeting
The agenda of these meetings (set a time limit for each meeting)
The ways they can communicate
Contacting you in case of emergency
The support you can offer
The goal you have in mind
Your expectation of the mentee
The informality of mentorship can make it easy to forego accountability. Ensure that the mentee understands they are your student. They should be accountable and open to receiving constructive criticism. If mentees can’t take you seriously or respect authority, then it can be impossible to offer them your input or insights.
You can hold your mentees accountable by:
Getting them to commit to deadlines
Ensuring they are open to constructive feedback and criticism
Sticking to timelines and agendas
Following up on tasks
Avoiding repeating mistakes
Get set up the right way
Tailored contracts and documentation.
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Mentors must realise that conflict can happen between mentors and mentees. Keeping strategies in place for conflict resolution can help you in the long run.
Having an honest discussion after every meeting can encourage the mentee to be honest about their needs
Frame ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ questions to avoid ambiguity or misunderstandings (Are you happy/satisfied with your progress? Do you feel we need to do more?)
Offer constructive feedback regularly so the mentee has clarity
Do not let things escalate
Choose mentees smartly
Mentorship is not management. You cannot mentor multiple people at the same time. Being a mentor means putting away a significant chunk of your time to support someone’s career. Choose a mentee carefully and smartly. Look for traits and values that you believe make them worthy.
Is the mentee willing to learn? Are they adaptable?
Will the mentee do the hard work necessary to succeed?
Consider doing a trial (like giving them an assignment or project) and evaluating them
Observe them in other social and professional situations
Understand mentoring power dynamics
Remember that as a mentor, you are in a position of power. You must be conscious of acknowledging the power imbalance and not letting it become an obstacle.
What are the pitfalls of mentorships?
Unable to accept the mentee’s point of view or opinion
Unwilling to accept when you are wrong
Taking their feedback personally
Dominating them in meetings or professional settings
Taking credit for their ideas
Is mentorship for you?
The idea of mentorship is appealing. It also has benefits such as:
Improves leadership skills
Improves communication skills
Develops your repertoire
Hones your interpersonal relationships
Sharpens your mind
Develops your focus
When business owners or employers mentor others, they create strong and personal relationships that last. However, mentorship may not be for everybody.
They are time-consuming and have no financial or immediate benefits. They can also go awry due to the lack of formal safeguards in place. Mentorship can also get tricky if you need to be focused on your career or business. It may not be the smart choice if your business needs your full attention. Like everything, you need to think carefully and make a pragmatic decision if you are ready to be a mentor.
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