Mentoring others is a great way to give back and make a broader impact both inside and outside your organization, but it is also a responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly. As a mentor, someone else's personal and professional development is in your hands, so it is important to be in it for the right reasons and give it your all. Here are a few tips to help ensure a productive mentoring experience for both the mentee and mentor.
1) Identify Goals
You can't help someone if you don't know what they are trying to accomplish. The first thing you should do as a mentor is sync with the mentee and understand where they are at in their personal or professional development and where they are trying to go. Try to document this information as well so you have a benchmark of where things were at the beginning. This will make it easier to track progress. Over time, your mentee's goals may change or evolve, so make these discussions a continuous part of the mentoring program.
2) Set a Recurring Cadence
While it's great to have an "open door policy" with your mentee where they can reach out whenever they need, having a set cadence to sync up is important as well. If someone seeks mentoring, they're obviously trying to better themselves in some way, but may not always know all the right questions to ask to get the ball rolling. Having a formal cadence gives the mentor ability to lead a bit and set an agenda to help kick things off.
3) Use Metrics to Track Progress
Try to leverage metrics where possible to measure your mentee's progress. Having the ability to measure their progress will help you not only fine tune your program where needed, but will also allow you motivate them by showcasing the accomplishments they've made along the way. Try to set benchmarks or checkpoints along the way as well. This will help you plot a timeline of where you started, where you are trying to go, and what things need to happen along the way to get there.
4) Be an Active Listener
To be a good mentor it is important to not just talk away the whole time, but to also listen to your mentee. This is critical to being able to provide effective guidance and feedback. Additionally, the more you listen the more you will understand the things that make your mentee unique. Recognizing someone's unique strengths will allow you to customize their development plan around ways they can leverage their strengths to achieve their goals. Keep in mind, just because you've been successful doing things a certain way doesn't mean your job as a mentor is to to clone yourself in your mentee. Each person's path to success can be different, so listen closely to your mentee and then help them find theirs.
5) Action Items and Accountability
A great way to ensure your mentee's development stays on track is to assign action items at the end of each mentoring session. These action items often set the agenda and dialogue for the following session. Don't do it for the sake of busy work, but it is good to ensure you don't spend the first 30 minutes of your mentoring session simply exchanging formalities until you can identify things to chat through. Most importantly, be sure to hold the mentee accountable for following through with these action items. Their level of follow through shows their commitment to their development. So if they put in a ton of effort make sure you match it, but if they don't, then maybe your time is better suited mentoring other people.
One thing that tends to fade over time is our ability to dream big. As a leader and a mentor, help inspire your mentees and make them realize their true potential is only confined by the limits they impose on themselves. Each time I meet with my mentors I leave feeling inspired to do more, be more, and make them proud. I leave re-energized with a strengthened commitment to my dreams. This reaffirmation of my potential and purpose are amongst the most beneficial things I get from my mentors, so I absolutely make every effort to pass this on to my mentees. Put yourself in your mentees shoes and remember the feeling you had as you daydreamed about where the start of a new journey could take you. Remember what it was like when the world held endless amounts of possibilities, and then help your mentee harness their skills to make something amazing happen.