How to be a Good Mentor who creates an Impact?
November 29, 2023
Most of us have a secret desire to make a difference in this world, we desire to inspire others. Yet if we start asking the question ‘do you have a mentor – a designated or an informal one’? The answer would be ‘no’ for most of the people.
Why is it that we desire to guide and inspire others, yet such guidance is a rare accident, if it at all happens?
One of the reasons is people often are unsure if they have the power to guide, in a way that would impact life. Sometimes, it is the packed schedule that stands in the way, and it can very well be a reason that no one particularly asked for it.
The crucial one above all is that the meaning of ‘being a mentor’ is fuzzy and unclear.
Who is a Mentor?
I had a misconception. A mentor is someone who can give me direction by being present in front of me. It is later that I realised, it is the effect and not the presence per say. An author I have never met can be my mentor, if they have been relatable, have moved me in times of need. In a nutshell, someone I depend on, no matter where I stand. It is that simple.
Why is Mentoring so important?
Organisations are increasingly focusing on various forms of mentorship, be it peer mentoring, cross functional mentoring or including mentoring as a required competency in managers. Mentoring has directly contributed to increasing productivity and profitability. There are several research studies which have shown that mentoring has a positive effect on mental and emotional health of mentors and mentees. Mentoring can be a game changer for organisations who are focused on diversity and inclusion. It is not just the diversity candidates, but your current employees who need to understand how to navigate conversations and contribute to making a positive work environment.
As a mentor, you have this amazing opportunity to have a lasting impact on people’s lives. But what are the qualities you need ? How to be a good mentor?
1. Have Clarity in your role as a Mentor :
From buddy projects to mentoring relationships, organisations often launch extensive programs. The challenge is they are focused on ‘mentees’ most of the time. Get clarity on your responsibilities. As a mentor your prime role is to support your mentee walk the ropes. You are there to help them develop as a professional and as a person. However, you are not their “All Time Solution Machine”.
2. Little things go a long way:
It is the seemingly small things where people need support. As mentors, you may want to share deep insights or a major experience, however, small things such as, appearance at workplace, email drafts, workplace dynamics, responding to seniors, general expectations etc. would make a bigger difference to your mentee. You have to remind yourself that it is about where your mentee stand, and not what you have to offer.
3. Super Communicator:
Communication, especially in this context is not how you express, but how you let your mentee express themselves. Deep listening followed by questions are important to grow as a mentor. The more you know your mentee the more relevant and contextual your conversation will become. That’s how you inspire your mentee. Leaders of organisation whose presence people desire, are the ones who make it all about the team and listeners, and what is important to them.
4. Authentic & Candid:
People often shy away from feedback. Feedback is simple – what needs to be further worked on, why working on it is important and how can your mentee work on it. If you are not being authentic, the learning journey of your mentee remains incomplete. Being authentic and candid does not equal being rude or hurtful. It simply means sharing what needs to be told with the best intention and empathy.
5. Judge Less Care More:
This applies to both your mentee and yourself. Do not judge yourself if you feel things aren’t going the way you expected. Take one day at a time. Life gets easier when we focus on the process and not just look forward to the outcome. In the same way, know your mentee is not going to be your clone. Their outlook can be different, their approach, work ethic and learning all can be starkly opposite, yet you have to find a way to collaborate.
6. Ramp up your Energy:
If you want to build a positive impact, you have to feel upbeat and positive yourself. Find your source of energy – music, exercise, gardening, dancing, whatever gets you going! Take care of yourself and you will witness the energy being replicated by your mentees
7. Self Awareness:
The answer to how to be a good mentor, lies in self. Mentoring is not a one-sided relationship. Know what you are bringing to the table – knowledge, experience, expertise, vulnerability, observations. Also, be open to receiving. This is a mutually enriching experience. Do not make it an ego battle. A lot of mentoring programs fail because managers go into mentorship thinking they are here to offer and others to receive. If you are lucky, you would have bright mentees who would be better than you in certain areas. Accept and grow together.
8. Let the Other’s Shine:
Mentor’s core responsibility is to bring their mentees to the forefront. Let them be in the spotlight. Let them take chances and learn. It’s okay if they want to experiment. Let them fail and help them pick up the pieces. It is through their growth that you grow as a leader.
9. Attitude of Gratitude:
An opportunity to mentor is a privilege. Approach this assignment with gratitude. Gratitude has a lot to do with the question ‘how to be a good mentor’. Gratitude brings humility and opens our eyes to possibilities in situations and people. Human connections go deeper, when we feel grateful from within.
As a mentor you are accountable for your mentee’s growth. Tracking their progress, timely feedback and highlighting challenges as they come must be a part of your routine. Documenting progress is helpful for your mentee, your organisation and above all for you.
Please remember you are a mentor and not a superhero with a mission to save the world! It is absolutely okay to say “I do not know”. Share your limitations and failures. It is through relatability that you form deep bonding.
How do you know your organisation needs to introduce a Mentoring Program?
It is never too early to start a mentoring program in any organisation. Whether a small startup or a major corporation, a mentoring program can support realising your company’s vision.
Reducing Attrition Rate:
Relationships at the workplace determine how a person feels about working with an organisation. When employees have clarity about their role, goal and the contribution they are making to the company’s growth, their probability of being a long term partner is high.
A crucial part of succession planning is sticking to the learning roadmap to build talent readiness. Meeting the learning curve means a lot of handholding, educating and at times reassuring. Effective mentoring programs can do wonders!
This also means it is non-negotiable that a mentor is also trained, educated and mentored to become a powerful and effective Mentor themselves. How to be a good mentor is not something to be left for chance but measured progress.
All the best for your journey as a Mentor!
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