Earlier this month, I was one of the selected mentors for my local Business Journals #MentoringMonday event and Women’s Summit. As always, I relish every opportunity to mentor professionals who are looking to develop professionally.
It was set up like a “speed dating” event, with short 7 minute mentoring sessions. Throughout the event, I had a steady line up of young professional women looking for mentoring. Of course, they were Millennials who were exploring career changes, or young leaders facing the day to day challenges of leadership.
One shared with me that she was struggling with what she described as her teams “lack of ambition”. She told me that her organization is growing, and there are lots of opportunities for people on her team to move up. She has encouraged several people to take on more responsibility, but they aren’t following through. As a leader, she is feeling frustrated that they don’t share her level of ambition and drive. She asked, “How can I make them more ambitious?”
But my question was, “How exactly are you encouraging them?”
Her response, “We talk about the opportunity, they say they’ll do what it takes, and they don’t.”
Understandably, it’s disappointing when folks don’t take our advice. But sometimes words just aren’t enough! Some people need a bit more guidance, a bit more mentoring. Mentoring isn’t about sprinkling words of encouragement or wisdom on folks and hoping that the magic works. Mentoring is a process, not an event. So you have to step up your game, take your mentoring to the next level. It’s time to Mentor Up!
Motivating and encouraging others takes more than words, it takes intention and purpose. Here are five key strategies to upping your mentoring game and having a greater impact as a mentor.
#1: Create some structure
When you enter into a mentoring relationship with someone, it is critical to create some structure for the relationship. Start by asking them if they want to be mentored, and then determine how it will work. When will you meet? Where? How often? How long? etc
#2: Set SMART goals
Mentoring is most effective when the relationship has goals. Make sure the goals are SMART; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound. Both the mentor and mentee should have goals and hold each other accountable for reaching them.
#3: Be available and responsive
It is important for mentors be available and responsive. Be there for your mentee when they have questions or concerns, don’t let emails sit unanswered in your inbox. If you don’t have their back, it is easier for them to feel discouraged.
#4: Guide and assist
A mentor’s job is to guide and assist, not direct. People have to take action in their own best interest, you can’t do it for them. You can give them the information, provide them the opportunity, and make the introductions, but what they do with it and how they do it is entirely up to them.
#5: Share your own successes and failures
Mentors are perfect, they’re human. It is our own experiences, good and bad, that are a benefit to our mentees. Be willing to be open and vulnerable, and share your own stories with your mentees. While you want your mentor to respect you, it is important that they can see themselves following in your footsteps.
There are lots of times when mentoring is spontaneous, and your words are “magical”, but great leaders are also great mentors. Step up your mentoring and build it into your leadership as a regular practice. It is vital to not only the strengthening of your team, but also increasing their level of engagement and job satisfaction. People may not always share your ambition, but most people want to learn and grow. If you want to see people on your team advance then Mentor Up, and take your mentoring to the next level.