When done well, few relationships in the workplace have as much impact on employee retention, development, and satisfaction as a good mentor/mentee relationship.
One study showed that 91% of workers with mentors are satisfied with their jobs; workers with mentors are also more likely to say they are paid well and that their contributions are valued in the workplace. A 2022 study by UK firm Donald K. Taylor ranked coaching and mentoring as the fourth most important learning and development strategy for organizations, up from sixth place in 2021.
Given the value and importance of mentoring in developing future leaders and employees across the organization, mentors should find ways to maximize the value they bring to the relationship. Here are ten tips to help you become a better mentor.
1. Get to Know Your Mentees Really Well
Identify your mentees' hopes, dreams, interests, passions, situations, challenges, and goals, and find out what they care about most. Ask about what obstacles they have overcome, how they manage stress, and what inspires and excites them. Listen, take notes, and connect future conversations to what you learn.
Set clear expectations for the mentoring relationship, including frequency and length of meetings, what prep is needed, what kind of follow-up you’ll pursue, what communication channel works best, and how to speak with candor and confidentiality. In short, clarify what behaviors you and your mentee can expect from each other—and then hold yourselves to it.
3.Focus Your Comments on Your Mentee’s Needs
Frame your advice and comments around issues and topics that support the needs of your mentee. Avoid sharing stories that are unrelated or are more about you than about the mentee. Be interested in the problems and challenges of your mentee rather than your own.
4.Be Engaged, Excited, and Encouraging
Show interest and enthusiasm in your mentee’s career, comments, needs, and challenges. Be a positive, supportive, and consistent voice in building the mentee’s skills, and champion the mentee’s career and personal development efforts.
Share specific personal and professional experiences that have shaped you and your career—including the hard lessons, mistakes, and shortcomings that you’ve experienced and how they made you a better leader. Future leaders need to hear that tough experiences are just as valuable—or even more valuable—in shaping good leaders as accomplishments and wins.
6.Let the Mentee Lead
Allow your mentee to take charge of the development process. Your role as a mentor is to provide guidance and direction. Create an environment where the mentee can direct the conversation, advocate for career development needs, and showcase leadership abilities.
7.Listen with Empathy
Put yourself in the mentee’s position to get a different perspective. As you ask questions, focus on actively listening to their responses without distraction or judgment. Avoid being preoccupied with your own ideas and first focus on understanding and hearing your mentee.
8.Probe Deep with Great Questions
As you explore your mentee’s challenges, dive deeper into understanding those challenges, and try to understand what the mentee is really looking for. Explore ways your mentee can think differently or use an alternative approach in addressing an issue. Showcase your coaching skills by asking more than telling, and encourage self-reflection through thought-provoking questions.
9.Build a Reciprocal Relationship
Find ways that both you and your mentees can benefit from your conversations. Identify what you find meaningful about mentoring, and openly discuss how both you and your mentee can grow and develop during the process.
Connect your mentee to others in your network. It’s likely you know many people who could help your mentee’s development, and you may know people who would also benefit from knowing your mentee. Actively introduce new individuals and support your mentee to broaden and develop a strong professional network.
As you embark on a mentoring relationship, remember that it can have tremendous value for your career as well as for your mentee. Mentors are more likely to receive raises and promotions, and they often report greater self-confidence, improved job satisfaction, and stronger leadership skills as a result of mentoring others. By employing these ten tips, you’ll bring more value to both you and your mentee.
- How can I improve my communication with my mentee?
- Can I name two or three people who would benefit from meeting my mentee?
- What is one hard lesson or challenge I can share with mentees?