By Felecia Brasfield

The opportunity to mentor someone at your workplace will present itself at some point and it is important to be prepared. Understanding what it means to mentor and what constitutes an effective mentoring relationship will lay a solid foundation for a successful connection and help you mentor effectively.

In its simplest terms, being a mentor means being a trusted advisor to someone. It also means being available and offering sound guidance throughout the entire partnership. Mentoring can be experienced in various ways, including either short-term or long-term guidance. In addition, time spent with a mentee may include encouragement regarding their contributions at work, supporting their long-term career goals, and helping them navigate the company’s corporate structure. 

In the beginning, the mentor directs the flow of the mentor-mentee relationship by communicating clearly and with intention. It conveys to the mentee that the mentor is knowledgeable and can be trusted. The other key to mentor effectively is to troubleshoot potential problems that could arise during the arrangement. Be sure items such as appropriate time management, open communication, and ongoing access to each other have been discussed. Below are suggestions that help better understand the mentoring relationship. 

1. Each mentor/mentee relationship should be approached differently

In the beginning, the mentee will look to the mentor to set the cadence of how things will go. The mentor has the responsibility to learn the best way to communicate and guide the mentee throughout the process. Each relationship is unique and should be addressed differently. 

2. Set expectations together

The benefits of a mentor/mentee relationship are bountiful for both individuals. There is a delicate balance between guiding someone and making plans or decisions for them. Sitting down to discuss expectations from both individuals is a great way to mentor effectively and results in a trustworthy partnership, eliminating unexpected and uncomfortable situations.

3. Be prepared with constructive feedback 

The mentor provides feedback to the mentee regularly. Feedback should be a two-way street with the mentor receiving feedback as well. Both parties should make adjustments based on feedback throughout their relationship. 

4. Strengthen Emotional Intelligence 

The mentor learns the unique characteristics, personality traits, wants, and needs of each mentee. Improving emotional intelligence helps teach the mentor how to ask the right questions to draw out what is most important. Over time, the mentor will uncover the experiences and situations that have gotten the mentee to where they are currently. 

(Want to learn more about Emotional Intelligence, click HERE)

5. Be open and honest about successes and failures 

The mentor provides valuable insight by being honest with the mentee about professional successes and failures. Being open builds trust strengthens the relationship, and can bolster the mentee’s problem-solving abilities. 

“If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before.” ~J Loren Norris

6. Always celebrate a mentee’s successes

Highlight each ‘win’ that the mentee experiences. Celebrating a mentee’s successes provides motivation, builds confidence, and creates positive reinforcement. You can mentor effectively by recognizing achievements, ensuring the psychological need to feel appreciated is also being met. 

7. Find ways to help the mentee add to their skillset 

Mentors encourage and identify opportunities for the mentee to learn new skills. Mentees frequently seek out these types of relationships because they have a desire to advance at their current job or want to excel and move into other opportunities. Oftentimes this is through company training or continuing education. If both parties work for the same company try introducing them to other department heads or help them get involved in new projects. 

Considering becoming a mentor for the first time? These topics and questions can help you be an effective mentor. 

  • Identify your managerial style and decide how that can play a role in the mentor/mentee relationship.
  • What does success look like for a mentee and how can that be communicated to them? 
  • What is the best way to explain expectations to a mentee so that both individuals are on the same page? 

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