My new book, “Bridging Differences for Better Mentoring” with Center for Mentoring Excellence founder Dr. Lois Zachary, was recently released by Berrett-Koehler Publishers. You may be wondering what the phrase “better mentoring means.” Wonder no more. I am about to define it for you and offer some tips and tidbits to so you can achieve better mentoring.
Since people best retain content in threes, here are 3 lists of 3 things to remember about Better Mentoring.
LIST 1: Better Mentoring is….
- A reciprocal partnership
Like any other partnership, (think medical practice, law firm, marriage), both mentor and mentee give something to the relationship, and both benefit. Yes, mentees, mentors benefit too. We hear over and over from mentors that they gain new perspectives, better leadership skills, and a powerful sense of contribution, among other things.
Mentoring should focus on the mentee’s development, not just the mentee’s performance. Supervisors, colleagues, and advisors can help a mentee in learning how to perform best in their current role. Mentors should focus on helping mentees grow into and beyond the mentee role. To do this, mentor and mentee must set goals that focus on improving the skills, knowledge, and competency of the mentee.
- An effective strategy for inclusion
Better Mentoring bridges difference. Through my work leading Diversity & Inclusion, I came to believe that leadership buy-in and educational programming are important, but nothing moved the needle more on inclusion than encouraging and fostering meaningful relationships across difference. Something transformational occurs when organizations create a structure for workplace relationships where people who may not ordinarily come together build trust and learn from one another.
LIST 2: Better Mentoring requires…
- A relationship
I often hear things like “I consider Oprah my mentor,” or “Nelson Mandela was a mentor to me.” This can be true only if you actually know and interact with Oprah or Nelson Mandela. These and other celebrities can be considered role models, teachers, even guides, but not mentors. Mentoring requires an actual relationship with mutuality of purpose, reciprocity and focus on the mentee’s development.
- An investment of time
Though I work mostly with organizations that have structured mentoring programs, effective mentoring relationships need not stem from a structured program. Informal mentorship do yield powerful results. However, even informal mentoring relationships require an investment of time. Mentor and mentee must prepare, reflect, and follow up on meetings and commitments.
Mentoring should be purpose-driven from the get-go. What are the goals and outcomes you want to achieve? Without intentionality, it is difficult to gauge progress, measure results, or to steer a mentoring relationship back on course.
LIST 3: Better Mentoring is not…
- A download of a mentor’s knowledge
A mentor’s job is to facilitate the mentee’s learning. This can best be accomplished when a mentor shares their experiences, however, mentoring is not effective when a mentor simply downloads their knowledge to the mentee. Rather, mentors must listen closely to their mentee’s needs, provide a sounding board and a safe space for the mentee to ask questions, take risks and explore possibilities.
I am often asked for a checklist that people should complete in order to make mentoring effective. While there are predictable phases of mentoring, and certain conversations that are important to have, there is no checklist for effective mentoring. Why? Because mentoring is relational, not transactional.
- One size fits all
No two mentoring relationships are the same. Each journey is highly personalized and co-created by mentor and mentees. What’s more, the form of mentoring itself may vary. Better mentoring takes many forms: 1-on-1 mentoring pairs, mentoring circles, peer mentoring, mutual mentoring, etc. All can be effective as long as they follow the tips in these lists.
There you have it. Three lists of three tips and tidbits that can guide you towards better mentoring.