Company Guide to Successful Mentoring
What Is Mentoring?
Mentoring is how we have transferred wisdom and knowledge for thousands of years. (We didn’t use that word until recently, but the principles are the same.)
Mentoring in business is how you formalize a learning system and culture. It can take the form of teaching, coaching, “political savvy” – crossing into multiple forms of career development. No matter the size of your business, you can and should put mentoring into practice. To retain and grow top talent requires a commitment to teach and coach the next generations of up-and-coming leaders.
Here is Corporate Culture Pros’ guide to getting mentoring right in your organization.
Why is Mentoring Important?
In today’s fast-paced, management-lean, multi-generational workplaces, mentoring has become more important than ever.
1) Have you noticed when you attend a workout class or enter a race, you work out harder than you do on your own? EVERYONE stretches further with guidance and “a nudge.” It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s why sports teams have coaches! Mentoring expands and broadens your perspective.
2) People enjoy learning from each other – by watching, not just being told. (observe how children mimic parents and you know this is true). Mentoring is the best way to transfer knowledge that resides in “elders” and “top performers” which does not get transferred through formal training.
When you make mentoring part of your culture, you make learning come to life.
Mentoring Creates Dependable Excellence.
Six Benefits of Good Mentoring:
- Reinforcing training so it’s applied on the job.
- Supporting people in setting and achieving goals.
- Increasing productivity and effectiveness across an organization
- Transferring knowledge and best practices, especially to create better bridges across functional lines.
- Growing talent and building leadership.
- Fostering a connected, relationship-based culture. (Essential to adapting in a world of high-speed change.)
What Good Mentors Do:
- Define the relationship.
- 1-3 month increments work best, then re-contract if needed.
- “Do you learn best by me showing, telling?”
- “Can we check in weekly on your progress and goals?” Set small, do-able steps weekly.
- As a mentor, define (and communicate guidelines) about when and how much time you are willing to devote to the mentoring relationship – and stick to them. Be available!
- Elicit clear goals
- “What do YOU want to be different in 30-60-or 90-days from now?”
- Write it down! (set up a folder for each field employee and keep notes in it).
- Serve not do.
- Help your mentee remove obstacles – “What was hardest for you this week?” “What could you have done differently?”
- It’s OK to set new goals if they realize they bit off more than they could chew. But it’s not OK to make excuses for why they can’t learn and change: The mentee must show commitment and willingness to make the effort.
- Appreciate differences in style
- Not everyone learns the same, performs the same, or communicates the same.
- Your role is a “field guide” for their self-discovery about how they learn, grow, improve.
- Respect is key – allow for differences in style but ensure needs and boundaries are kept clear.
What Good Mentees Do:
- Commit to goals – be thoughtful about what you want to improve on. Keep it simple and small.
- Be a learner – if you resist learning and doing things differently, the process won’t work.
- Do new things – allow time each week to practice your craft vs. doing it the ‘same old way.’
- Don’t make excuses – own your part! Take responsibility for mistakes. Re-commit to some small progress each week.
Change is the name of the game in business today, and the complexity of the workplace requires relationship-based development, not simply classroom training.
Mentoring helps you keep pace, foster stronger connectivity, and build bridges (not walls) within your organization.