How to be a better mentor

Everyone starts at the bottom and works their way up – and no one does it alone. So if you’ve had success in your career, it’s because somewhere along the way, someone took you under their wing to help you grow. And it’s natural that once you become well established in your career you’ll want to give back.

But sharing your journey can not only inspire and guide others – by being a mentor you’ll find that the more you give, the more you get back.

What’s in it for you?

When you are a mentor, not only do you strengthen your leadership skills and have the chance to assess your own value and experiences, but you’ll create stronger industry bonds that will keep you relevant. And you’ll see a huge boost for your business as well.

Transferring your knowledge and insights to other persons helps them fill crucial gaps in their skills, allowing them to navigate difficult situations and be better prepared to handle tough situations. So your team members are more successful, and with a better informed and connected team, your business becomes more competitive.

So if you’re ready to help someone learn to achieve their goals, follow these six tips to build a mentoring relationship where you can grow together:


1) Establish clear expectations and goals

Start with an assessment of your protégé’s needs and find out what they hope to get out of meeting with you. Prioritize the issues you’ll work on together, and agree on how much time you will each devote on the mentorship.

Explain what you are prepared to do for your protégé, whether that’s teaching new skills or making key introductions, and also be clear about what you expect from them. If both of you share your hopes and expectations for the relationship, you’ll create a discussion where you both feel comfortable.

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2) Listen, listen, listen

Although your success story will inspire and enlighten, don’t do all the talking. In fact, wait to hear what your protégé has to say before you start offering advice. Ask for their perspective and really listen. Remember that they bring fresh insights and a point of view not weighed down with unnecessary baggage.

Your protégé should never feel too insecure to ask questions, so practice your listening skills to make sure that they feel respected and that their voice is really being heard.

3) Offer criticism with empathy

Part of growing is being able to face up to weaknesses, so it’s important that you challenge your protégé to step out of their comfort zone. At the same time, you need to deliver criticism in a way that won’t discourage.

Be tactful when discussing mistakes, and always offer guidance to improve the situation in the future. Be patient with your protégé, and remember that no one gets everything right on the first try. If progress stalls, collaborate with your protégé to adapt your process.

4) Be accountable to each other

Trust is the foundation of an effective mentoring relationship, so keep your promises to your protégé, just as you expect them to keep their commitments to you. Assign homework and follow up on direction or advice that you gave – this shows that you are invested in your protégé’s success.

But also demonstrate that this mentor relationship is a priority for you, too. Don’t squeeze in sessions or say that you’re too busy to meet. Block off time in your schedule so you know you can really focus on your protégé and their needs.

5) Share mistakes, not just victories

No one is proud of their failures, but those struggles are just as valuable as victories – if not more so – as learning tools. Hearing how someone else approached a challenge is always helpful for protégés facing similar struggles for the first time.

But even more importantly, being open to sharing your own failures builds trust, giving your protégé permission to share their own mistakes and admit where they may be struggling in an area of their career.

6) Let them make their own decisions

Remember that mentoring is not about cloning another you. Your protégé should find their own path to their own success. What’s more, you can’t just tell them what to do or solve problems for them. Instead, you have to let them think through challenges to find solutions, even if it may not be the solution you would choose.

Showing faith in your protégé will improve their confidence and encourage them to think for themselves. Be there to point out roadblocks, or help create bridges, but always let your protégé drive their own career.