In my experience of developing leaders, one of the “Top 10 Questions to Answer in Mentor Training” is “What am I missing? Are there any mentoring tips or ‘tricks of the trade’?”
That’s a difficult question to answer.
If you don’t know what you don’t know, how am I supposed to know what you don’t know?
Then, I had an idea!
I decided to look through all the feedback I’ve received from leaders who’ve attended my mentoring workshops and identify the main things that they had valued and got out of my training.
My assumption is that, if these were the main “takeaways”, then they are mentoring tips they didn’t know (but didn’t know they didn’t know) before the training. Not bad, eh?
As it turns out, there are seven key mentoring tips that leaders value.
1. Make use of practical conversation tools
The mentors I meet are typically busy senior managers and leaders in organisations. They take their role as a mentor seriously and they want to do a good job. But they are not psychologists. And they aren’t professional coaches. They value having practical conversation tools that empower the mentee and helps them identify a way forward in a brief call or meeting.
2. Have a framework for the mentoring discussion
Mentors may have developed conversation skills. But they value guidance on how to turn a “chat” into a purposeful, valuable discussion. And they appreciate having a framework to help them rather than relying on their gut instinct.
3. Recognise the mentee has to take ownership for their own development. The role of the mentor is to help them find their own solutions
In business, we often talk about “developing others” and mentoring is an initiative focused on that aim. But the reality is, you can’t develop others. You can simply help them develop themselves. That’s because professional development involves personal change. Change will only happen if the individual wants it and will invest the time and effort to make it happen. The mentor’s role is to create a supportive environment, help the mentee decide what they want to change and help them identify what they’re prepared to do to make that change happen.
4. You can empower, energise and inspire by helping the mentee develop a rich picture of their future success
In business, we talk a lot about goals. And when it comes to improving performance and delivering results, that can be valuable. But mentoring focuses on the whole person. And in that context, goals can be limiting and uninspiring. I find it much more energising and inspiring to take a wider view and encourage the mentee to describe a rich picture of their future success. In other words how they will be beyond the goals.
5. Highlight the positives rather than the negatives
As you probably know, I am a fan of solutions focus, strengths-based approaches and positive psychology. And such approaches can be valuable in mentoring. Mentees can get fixated on the barriers and difficulties they need to overcome. Mentors have a valuable role to play in helping them identify all the progress they have already made and all the positive skills, qualities and resources that will help them make progress.
6. Small steps can make big differences
There is value in striving towards ambitious goals. They are exciting. They are motivating. They are challenging. But they can also be overwhelming and paralysing. There is often a lot that is outside the control of the individual. By helping mentees focus on the areas they can influence, mentors can empower them to take small immediate steps that will help them make progress.
7. Enjoy! Mentoring is a positive, developmental experience for both mentor and mentee
People often think that mentoring is a selfless, altruistic activity. There is a belief the mentor is sacrificing their time purely for the benefit of the mentee and their organisation. Not so. Mentors get just as much out of a mentoring relationship as mentees. While mentees get access to the skills and experience they need, mentors get broader exposure and insights into the organisation’s future leaders.
That summarises 7 mentoring tips that new mentors are missing
When you train your mentors, please don’t limit it to discussing what mentoring is and the mechanics of the programme. Don’t get me wrong. That is important. But equally important are the practical takeaways and mentoring tips that will give your mentors the skills and confidence to be effective.
If you would like help in designing and delivering that training, just get in touch.
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