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The Art of Mentoring

Mentors play an integral part in one’s career development. Taking time out of one’s day to check-in and help develop an individual’s skills not only is gratifying, but also it’s something that is highly sought after in the workplace. Everyone wants to be thought of as a mentor, but being one isn’t easy – which is why today I’ve put together some quick tips to help all the mentors out there get the most out of their efforts.

1. Preparation

Just as teams prepare for games, students study for tests, and musicians rehearse before a show, mentors too should take some time and do a bit of prep work before getting started. According to Lynda Bourne in her recent article from PMHut, mentors should “Take time to understand the other person and pay proactive attention to building early chemistry and engagement with each other in the first two to three meetings.” By doing some initial preparation, mentors will be able to gain a deeper understanding of their mentees and learn what drives them. Putting in some early effort and establishing some chemistry between you and your mentee will pay large dividends down the road.

2. Know Your Responsibilities

Both the mentor and the mentee have their own set of unique responsibilities. The mentee is responsible for sharing what they would like to get out of from their mentor. For example, the best way to achieve this is by having the mentee take responsibility for setting up robust objectives and goals that will help them progress in their career. Mentees may not know the exact details of your goals, but you must have objectives that are specific and (most importantly) measurable. This way you and your mentor will be able to track your progress towards achieving those goals.

Similarly, mentors have to take the responsibility of establishing an environment of strong trust, candor, and confidentiality. Mentors must be adaptive. They must actively listen to the real needs of the mentee and help incorporate them into the process.

3. Incorporate Feedback Loops

Just like any major program, incorporating a feedback loop is a must. Bourne suggests establishing “loops of preparation and negotiation to facilitate the confident application and trial by the mentee of strategies and desired practices formulated in the mentoring sessions.” In other words, it’s important to have regularly scheduled meetings. It gives both parties a way to discuss and analyze the execution of ideas and strategies previously agreed upon. Establishing routine communication is an excellent way for both parties to talk about what is working and what needs tweaking for the next round. Here Bourne points out that “any perceived failure to trial, or avoidance, needs to be pursued vigorously by the mentor…A mentoring relationship without a bit of ‘tough love’ in the advanced stages is unusual.” So be sure to both actively listen, as well as constantly try to stretch your mentees.

4. Know when to Move On

Just as it’s important to establish goals and objectives in the beginning, it’s also important to know when it’s over and to move on. “The ultimate test of a mentoring relationship is whether it reaches the goal set by the mentee and he or she not only achieves the outcome, but is also confident in their ability to handle it into the future,” says Bourne. This is why establishing metrics to help track the overall progression to achieving those goals is so important. Then, once all of the key goals or objectives have been reached, the job is done. The mentoring process is complete, and it’s time for both parties to move on.

As with every relationship it takes two to make it work. By using these four tips, both parties involved will get more out of their mentoring efforts. So give them a try and be impressed!

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