Mentoring is about giving someone advice while ensuring they keep ownership of their decision and the next steps. As a leader, leveraging mentoring is an incredibly powerful approach to helping build competence and confidence while building autonomy within an individual and/or a team. So what makes a mentor stellar?
- Being able to give just enough content to aid the mentee. Too much, the leader is heading into training, which may take the decision autonomy away. Too little, the leader risks creating frustration over lack of support to move forward. So what’s the right amount…it depends. The situation, the people, and the content all factors into finding the right amount of content to aid without taking ownership. Try to err on the less side to start and add more as needed.
- Leaving the mentee(s) feeling like they can do this. Often, people associate mentoring by giving content advice. However, the greatest gift of mentoring is frequently building confidence in others to proceed forward. Sure, give that content advice if people are heading for a cliff but more times than not, experimentation and learning is required for whatever lies ahead. This support is essential in creating high performance as this is part of the foundation of mutual trust and respect.
- Ideally, people have many mentors. Thus, mentors are not always regularly involved. Requests to meet/talk are random and sometimes urgent. Amazing mentors make these requests feel natural and welcomed. There is no “How come I only hear from you when…”, “what do you need now” and/or “sorry, I don’t have any time for you”. Now they may not be able to drop everything right in that exact moment, but time is quickly made to help. This is the only reasonable response for amazing mentors because they are invested and value the mentee’s growth.
- Very careful to not take ownership intentionally or accidentally. This is achieved by asking some variation of “how will you make the final decision?”, “how can I support you in your decision?” or “what would you need to change about my approach to work for you”. The last one is interesting in that sometimes, mentees will defer to whatever the mentor highlights as advice. To combat this: make the content clear that the mentee will need to make adjustments.
- Stellar mentors challenge you. They believe in you sometimes before you believe in yourself. They see the potential and know what is possible. There is no settling. Yet, as much as they push you out of your comfort zone, you feel the encouragement and support too.
What made a mentor stellar for you?