How to Be a Mentor

By Deanna deBara Posted August 6, 2020

 

Being a mentor is a great way to support your employees' professional growth (and support your organization's growth in the process). 


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As a leader, you want to do everything you can to ensure the success of your team. That can take many different forms, from investing in learning and development to implementing processes and systems that enable a higher level of productivity.

But if you want to take a more hands-on approach to inspire your team's best, one strategy you may want to consider is mentorship.

Being a mentor is a great way to support your employees' professional growth (and support your organization's growth in the process). 

So, the question is—how, exactly, can you be an efficient and effective mentor?

Why is mentorship important?

First things first—before we jump into how to be a mentor, let's quickly cover why mentorship is so important. 

There are a few reasons why you should consider being a mentor, including:

  • Employees want to be mentored, but few of them are. One of the most persuasive reasons to consider mentoring? Most people want to work with a professional mentor, but they haven't had the opportunity. According to recent research from Olivet Nazarene University, 76 percent of people consider business mentorship necessary—but nearly half (44 percent) have never had a professional mentor.
  • Mentoring can help your organization retain top talent. According to the 2019 CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Survey, 91 percent of workers who have a mentor are satisfied with their jobs. And that job satisfaction can help keep top talent with your company; according to the survey, only 25 percent of mentored workers considered quitting their position in the last three months—compared to more than 40 percent of workers without a professional mentor.
  • Mentoring will make your employees more productive—and more successful. If you want to inspire the best in your team, mentor them. Sixty-seven percent of businesses reported an increase in productivity due to mentoring.
  • According to data outlined in Forbes, employees who work with a mentor are five times as likely to get promoted than employees who don't have professional mentorship.

Now that you understand the seriously positive impact mentorship can have on your employees and your organization, let's jump into how to be an effective mentor.

mentors have answeres

Let mentorship happen naturally.

You might think that you need to spend a lot of time and energy developing a mentorship strategy. How should you choose your mentees? How should you approach the idea of mentoring them? What kind of parameters should you put in place?

But the truth is, there's no need to overthink or force a mentoring situation; often, the relationship will just unfold on their own. According to the Olivet Nazarene University research, 61 percent of mentor/mentee relationships developed naturally—a much more likely scenario than mentors seeking out people to mentor (25 percent) or employees asking a more senior worker to mentor them (14 percent). 

So pay attention to your existing relationships. Is there someone junior who regularly asks questions about your career trajectory? Is there someone in your organization that you get along with and want to help grow their career? Do you have an employee you work with on a committee or project about which you're both passionate? Those are the relationships that are likely to develop into professional mentorship naturally.

Carve out time for the relationship.

mentee wants coachingEven though many mentoring relationships emerge naturally, that doesn't mean they don't require any effort. It may seem obvious, but if you want to be an active mentor, you need to carve out time to dedicate to the relationship.

How much time is up to you and your mentee—but for the relationship to be effective, you'll want to meet regularly (whether that's once a week, once per month, or once per quarter). That way, you can get to know your mentee, understand their career goals, and work together to develop a plan to help them get there.

In addition to regularly-scheduled meetings, you should also try to make yourself available to your mentee for any questions or issues they have between meetings. For example, if your mentee is interviewing for a promotion, you may want to carve out time to help them prepare—even if you have a few weeks before your next scheduled meeting.

Working with your mentee regularly will help you add real value to the relationship—and ensure that your mentorship is helping them grow professionally.

Let the mentee's goals guide your relationship.

As a mentor, you might be tempted to tell your mentee what you think they should do. And while sharing your professional insights and advice is certainly a part of mentoring, it's ultimately your mentee's career—and you need to let them and their goals guide the relationship.

For example, let's say your mentee is just starting their career—and, as a mentor, you think they have the potential to be excellent in sales. You can certainly share your thoughts with them (if they ask)—but if the idea of sales stresses them out, don't push it; instead, listen to their goals and help them develop a plan to build a career that feels right to them.

The best mentors are the ones who help their mentees step into their potential—not the potential the mentor thinks is best for them.

Find tangible ways to add value.

mentor provides feedbackAs a mentor, you want to do everything you can to help your mentee grow professionally and hit their career goals. And while answering their questions, talking through challenges, and sharing insights can be extremely helpful, if you want to take your mentoring to the next level, look for tangible ways to add value and help them hit their goals.

For example, if your mentee wants to transition to a new role in the organization, see if you can introduce them to the hiring manager responsible for filling the position. If they want to model your career trajectory, share any professional training or courses you took to get where you are—and then help them get signed up for those same pieces of training and classes. If you know your mentee wants to move into leadership but struggles with public speaking, get them involved with Toastmasters to help build their skills.

The more tangible ways you can help your mentees grow and hit their goals, the more valuable the mentorship relationship will be—and the more they'll succeed as a result.

Get out there and get mentoring.

Mentoring is a great way to help more junior team members in your organization. But while your mentorship can directly impact your employees, the benefits don't stop there. Eighty-nine percent of workers who have been mentored will go on to mentor others—which means that by mentoring someone in your organization today, you are potentially passing down the benefits of mentorship to a new generation of employees tomorrow. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get mentoring.

Deanna deBara

Deanna deBara is an entrepreneur, speaker, and freelance writer who specializes in business and productivity topics. When she's not busy writing, she enjoys hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband and dog. See more of her work and learn more about her services at deannadebara.com.

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