A mentor is someone in the organization, usually older, more experienced, and in a higher level position, who sponsors or supports another employee (a protégé) who is in a lower-level position in the organization. A mentor can teach, guide and encourage. Some organizations have formal mentoring programs, but even if your organization does not, mentoring should be an important skill for you to develop.
You can be more effective at mentoring if you use the following six suggestions as you mentor another person:
- Communicate honestly and openly with your protégé
If your protégé is going to learn from you and benefit from your experience and knowledge, you’re going to have to be open and honest as you talk about what you’ve done. Bring up the failures as well as the successes. Remember that mentoring is a learning process, and in order for learning to take place, you’re going to have to be open and honest in “telling it like it is.”
- Encourage honest and open communication from your protégé
You need to know as a mentor what your protégé hopes to gain from this relationship. You should encourage the protégé to ask for information and to be specific about what he or she wants to gain.
- Treat the relationship with the protégé as a learning opportunity
Don’t pretend to have all the answers and all the knowledge, but do share what you’ve learned through your experiences. And in your conversations and interactions with your protégé, you may be able to learn as much from that person as he or she does from you. So be open to listening to what your protégé is saying.
- Take the time to get to know your protégé
As a mentor, you should be willing to take the time to get to know your protégé and his or her interests. If you’re not willing to spend that extra time, you should probably not embark on a mentoring relationship.
- Remind your protégé that there is no substitute for effective work performance
In any job, effective work performance is absolutely essential for success. It doesn’t matter how much information you provide as a mentor if the protégé isn’t willing to strive for effective work performance.
- Know when it’s time to let go
Successful mentors know when it’s time to let the protégé begin standing on his or her own. If the mentoring relationship has been effective, the protégé will be comfortable and confident in handling new and increasing work responsibilities. And just because the mentoring relationship is over doesn’t mean that you never have contact with your protégé. It just means that the relationship becomes one of equals, not one of teacher and student.