Mentoring programs are a great way for businesses to disseminate information and nurture the next generation of esteemed industry professionals. You might have benefitted from being on either side of the mentoring relationship at different stages of your career, meaning you can learn from the best and, in turn, give others the benefits of your own experience. You might currently be at a stage of your career in which you feel that you can give back by becoming a mentor to others who are just embarking on their own career journeys.
However, there is a certain skillset required for becoming an excellent mentor and ensuring that the relationship is mutually beneficial for both mentor and mentee. Read on for some tips for how to become a better business mentor.
Consider honing your mentoring skills with further education
Just because you are a successful industry professional, it does not necessarily follow that you will become a successful mentor. Mentoring requires a specific skillset in order to ensure that your mentee can learn and grow under your guidance; in many ways, being a mentor is very similar to being a teacher—requiring similar skills of patience, empathy, and an ability to explain concepts clearly. However, can you still be a useful mentor if teaching does not come naturally to you? If you are serious about colleague development and becoming the best mentor you can be, you might find it useful to take a further education course, such as a distance master degree UK in education at the University of Exeter. This will give you an insight into teaching methodologies to support collaborative and dialogic learning, so that you gain the skillset needed to confidently pass on your industry knowledge and expertise to the next generation.
Give honest but respectful feedback
Receiving feedback on various tasks is one of the most effective ways in which individuals can grow their experience and improve on their practice. However, many times an opportunity for feedback is sadly not maximized by mentors for one of two reasons: they are either reluctant to give honest feedback as they are afraid of hurting the mentee’s feelings and demoralizing them; or they go all in with poorly thought-out comments that come across as rude and hurtful. A good mentor knows how to deliver feedback in a way that is constructive, direct, and honest, while also being kind and respectful. One way to do this is by following assertiveness techniques. For instance, evaluating the actions rather than the person, and always point out the positives to lessen the blow of criticism. In this way, your mentee will receive useful and honest directions for how to improve their performance in the future while also maintaining their dignity.
Adopt reflective listening
As a mentor, you might have fallen into the habit of simply telling your mentee all the information you think that they would benefit from. While this approach might be necessary in some cases—for instance, imparting specific industry information that they might otherwise not be aware of—it might not be the most effective learning style overall. This is because many people tend to switch off when they are required to passively take in information, and as such find it difficult to remember and retain what you have told them. As an alternative, you could encourage your mentee to take an active learning approach by exercising reflective listening, which seeks to improve mutual understanding. Also known as active listening, in a business mentoring setting this works on the basis that your mentee has the answers in their head, but may need some guidance in expressing them clearly and reaching a conclusion.
Essential reflective listening skills include mirroring and reflecting back to the mentee what they have just said, which helps to aid mutual understanding and help the mentee to clarify exactly what they are thinking. Reflective listening is closely linked to empathy, as it improves your understanding of the other person. In this way, you can understand and respond to exactly what your mentee is looking for from you as a mentor.
Stories are a great way of disseminating information as they help to convey an idea in a relatable way that the listener can easily grasp. They also enable you to connect with your mentee and let them know that you understand what they are experiencing, as you have navigated the same industry and have come up against similar challenges. Don’t just tell stories of your successes: telling your mentee about your failures can in many ways be more valuable, as they will learn from your mistakes and see that even those who are successful have to overcome some challenges. Opening up about your own professional struggles will also reveal a vulnerable side to your mentee, helping to build a personal connection with them during which they will see that a seemingly negative situation can be turned around to result in a positive outcome.
Make introductions and act as a champion
With your vast experience and network, you are in a position to help your mentee along by allowing them access to your network and introducing them to other industry professionals who may prove useful as they forge their careers. It is important, however, that you act as this sort of advocate for your mentee in an ethical way that you are happy with. You might, for instance, make targeted introductions with a clear purpose to avoid putting an unasked-for burden on those in your network. Another way that you can champion your mentee is to inform them of any job roles that are opening up, perhaps before they are posted online. Not only will this help your mentee along in their career journey, but it will also give them the reassurance that you feel that they are capable of applying for and winning their dream post.
By following these steps, you can be sure that your mentee will value and appreciate your expert help and guidance as they progress in their career.