Mentoring is integral to individual and business growth. A 2019 survey conducted by CNBC found that “more than 9 in 10 workers (91%) who have a mentor are satisfied with their jobs, including more than half (57%) who are ‘very satisfied.’ Workers with a mentor are more likely than those without to say they’re well paid (79% vs. 69%) and to believe that their contributions are valued by their colleagues (89% vs. 75%).”
Personally, I’ve been serving in a formal mentorship capacity since 2012. As a former leader of learning and development, I created and ran workplace mentoring programs. I’ve seen firsthand how mutually beneficial mentoring experiences are for employees and employers.
Mentorship can take on several forms.
Mentoring is formally defined as someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced person, but there are many different types of mentorship.
- Peer mentoring: Two people of the same “capacity” (title, level, general experience) get together to learn about a specific experience in an area that their peer would like to learn about.
- Reverse mentoring: This occurs when an earlier career professional mentors someone more senior than them.
- Reciprocal mentoring: This is a mutual mentorship between two parties. They likely mentor each other on different topics, but they are committed to each other’s success and growth.
- Traditional mentoring: A more tenured person mentors someone junior to them.
- Supervisory mentoring: This is a mentorship between a leader and their direct reports. It often happens organically and is situational in nature
- Executive mentoring: Executives mentor the next level (or two) of leaders reporting to them. This ensures business continuity and breeds a culture of coaching and mentoring in the business.
- Paid mentoring: A situation where a mentor is hired to impart knowledge, tools and experience. Oftentimes, this is an expert who exists outside of the mentees’ organic ecosystem.
Don’t be a mediocre mentor.
As a mentor, I am “all-in.” There isn’t anything my mentees can’t ask me for. They have full access to me anytime. I meet with them, challenge them, review their presentations, go to their events, send them gifts, tell them when I am thinking of them and celebrate their every milestone. And in order to be all-in, I don’t just mentor anyone. There is a certain feeling I get when I’ve met someone I’m supposed to invest in. This feeling is usually trigged by observing elements of myself in them that I know, thanks to my own experience, how to nurture.
If you decide to be a mentor for someone, it’s important to keep your commitments. According to a survey conducted by Olivet Nazarene University, 41% of mentees claim that it’s difficult to get time with their mentor. Remember that as a mentor, you are modeling mentorship! Keep your meetings. Solely focus on them and do not multi-task in their presence. Send them the resources you promised. Make whole-hearted introductions for them that opens doors. Your mentee will likely repeat your habits when they become a mentor. So, what do you want to see more of in the world?
These seven steps can help you level-up your mentoring game.
You wouldn’t be mentor material unless you were keen to do it well, right? Here are seven steps to help you show up as a next-level mentor regardless of the form of mentorship you sign up for.
- Get clear on your motivation for being a mentor. All motivations are welcome, but your awareness of your motivation is key. To be truly next-level, somewhere at your core is a desire to be of selfless service to others.
- Evaluate the forms mentorship takes and decide which of those fits your emotional and time capacities. Don’t sign up to give more than you have to give.
- Evaluate your prospective mentee(s). Ask yourself if you’re mentoring at the right level. Can your mentee apply what you impart given their station/status? Will you enjoy speaking to the topics they need mentoring on? Also, ensure that there is synergy. Do you enjoy being with your mentee? Do you have complimenting communication styles (which includes listening)? Consider that 61% of mentorship relationships form naturally.
- Make the offer to mentor and set boundaries. What exactly are you offering them in terms of your time and knowledge? How (and how often) will they have access to you? What do you expect from them in the relationship?
- Honor that your mentee makes her own decisions and her chosen path is the right path. As mentors, we offer our experience and ideas as guidance. We are of greatest support to them by giving them room to take risks. It is the mentee’s job to decide what of our advice fits them today and what they’ll file away for later.
- Communicate with your mentee if they aren’t keeping up their end of the bargain. It is okay to end the relationship if they habitually do not honor your agreement. Next-level mentors need to be freed up to serve those who are ready to take advantage!
- Make sure that you are filling your own cup too. Who has your back and is helping you grow? Our own mentors nurture us and model things for us that we can then bring back to our mentees.
As mentors, we offer our mentees a proverbial life preserver. Interestingly, you likely have these needs in common with your mentee. So, make sure you’re also taking care of you; that’s another great practice to model for your mentee.