Celebrating National Mentoring Month: Your Guide to Being a Strong Mentor
January is National Mentoring Month! This is a time to reflect on the value of mentorship in our homes, schools, communities, and workplaces.
I want you to take a moment and think about where you are in your professional life. Consider who provided guidance and advice throughout that process. It could be a teacher, boss, colleague, or someone else who has played this role in your development. I bet a number of people come to mind. These can all be considered mentors in one way or another.
On the other side of that, think about a time someone came to you for guidance and advice. Perhaps it was a trainee of yours, an employee, or someone else.
This might be harder to come up with depending on where you are at in your career. But odds are we have all had moments where someone trusted our expertise or opinion and we were able to guide them, even if it was just in your personal life.
And if you can’t relate to this in your professional life now, I can promise you that there will come a time in your career where someone will want to use your experience as a map to their success.
Not to mention that as a corporate trainer, your role is not only to be a mentor to your trainees, but also to empower them to use their knowledge to teach and guide others.
Below are our top 5 tips for being a strong mentor.
Building trust takes practice and dedication, along with being sensitive to your people’s needs. Here are eight steps to building trust in a mentor/mentee relationship:
- Maintain positive body language – Stay open and approachable. Show you are actively listening by making eye contact.
- Listen to them intently and speak less – Be sure to stay focused on your mentee when they come to you for guidance. Let them explain the entire situation to you and reiterate what they are telling you. Give careful thought to what they are saying before you respond.
- Always respect a mentee – Maintain a mutual respect and two-way communication in a mentor/mentee relationship.
- Keep things confidential – There may be times where your mentee comes to you in confidence with a difficult decision or circumstance to navigate. Be sure to respect their privacy by keeping this information confidential.
- Keep your promises – If you promise to act as someone’s reference or provide a networking opportunity, be sure to follow through, you never know the impact your actions could have on your mentee.
- Be honest and transparent – Your mentee is coming to you because they want your honest and transparent opinion.
- Be confident – Displaying confidence in your role as a mentor can help your mentee do the same.
- Tell them you believe in them – One of the best things you can do for those you mentor is empower and inspire them.
Encouraging growth and development is really providing opportunities to learn. When we give opportunities to those that we mentor, we send the message that we value them and are willing to invest time, effort, and sometimes money into their development.
As mentors, we should foster an environment of learning. Here are some ways you are able to provide learning opportunities for your mentees:
- Develop a peer mentorship process
- Use your internal training department (if you mentee works for you)
- Send your employee on opportunities learn something new (courses, conferences, new tasks, etc.)
- Have regular meetings to discuss growth and development
Different approaches will work depending on the context of the mentor/mentee relationship. Knowing what you can offer as a mentor is key to helping others grow.
3. Strategize Your Delivery of Constructive Criticism
Part of being a good mentor is being able to provide feedback. Providing constructive criticism can be tricky, and it is a skill that requires you to focus on four key areas.
First, when providing constructive criticism, focus on one issue at a time. Avoid addressing multiple issues, as this may cause confusion and frustration. Identify the most important issue, and help your mentee come up with a plan to overcome it.
Second, focus on being timely. Once you notice an issue, make sure you do not wait too long to deliver the critique.
Third and most importantly, focus on observable actions or behaviors. Avoid generalities. For example, do not say, “You have an issue with time management.” This statement is lacking an observable action or behavior. Instead, you might want to say, “I notice you spend extra time talking to other employees on your way to meetings, making you late to most of them.” The observable behavior is “talking to other employees.” With this behavior identified, you are now able to focus on the next point.
Fourth, focus on a plan to change the behavior. Depending on the extent of change that must happen, your plan may be a simple adjustment. However, if it is complex, then use SMART goal writing to help set successful goals.
4. Consider the GROW Model
Adapting the GROW model to mentoring is very easy to do. The GROW model can be used as a guide for the mentor to structure their dialogue with their mentee. The mentor develops the goal and guides the mentee to reach a goal the mentor selects.
In mentoring, the GROW model is used as a guide to questioning the mentee on when development path they want seek. Here the mentor asks open-ended questions that form the basis of the mentoring program. Here are some questions you can use when you want to use GROW for mentoring purposes:
- Goal: What are your career goals? What do you want to accomplish in the next year?
- Reality: Where are you in relation to your career goal? What are you lacking that you need to have in order to reach that career goal?
- Options: What are activities you think will help you develop those missing skills? How do you want to go about developing the skills necessary to advance your career?
- Wrap it up: What is your plan? How do you want to go about this?
Mentoring is a shoulder-to-shoulder type relationship, and should be treated as such with a mutual respect for one another.
Mentoring is sharing and guiding your mentee. It requires less structure but more relationship building. Being a mentor to someone creates a special relationship where the mentor watches over the mentee, guides them, and corrects them in different situations. There is not a set intervention. It is constant awareness, looking out for pitfalls and political traps that are common in the work environment.
Mentors also become more involved in the mentee’s life, demonstrating caring, understanding, and guiding them through it from the employment perspective. Deep personal issues should be taken care of by professionals; however, guiding them to that professional level is a mentor’s job.
Here are some behaviors that help to foster a good relationship between a mentor and a mentee:
- Demonstrate caring by listening for issues that are not readily disclosed to you. Perhaps you over hear a conversation where your mentee is struggling with something. Demonstrate care by encouraging your mentee to discuss it with you.
- Demonstrate understanding by acknowledging and empathizing with the mentee’s situation. Take the time to fully grasp what is going on and acknowledge it is real and that you would feel the same if you were in their shoes.
- Demonstrate listening by giving your undivided attention and avoid interruptions when talking with them like answering the telephone or looking at email. Notate and mirror things back to your mentee to demonstrate you are listening.
- Demonstrate respect by keeping the relationship professional at all times. Avoid degrading your mentee or using causal language in front of others. Show you respect your mentee as if they were an equal.
Keeping an eye on the relationship is just as important as keeping focus on the goal. The mentor/mentee relationship is delicate because the employee must see the value of the relationship. If they do not see a relationship, then the purpose for mentoring is gone.
This National Mentoring Month, be sure to take some time to reflect on how you can be a great mentor in the future. Furthermore, we encourage you to take some time to recognize the mentors in your personal and professional life.
To learn more about being a better mentor, check out our Coaching and Mentoring Workshop!
Posted by Katelyn Roy on