The practice of mentoring has become increasingly prevalent across many sectors. Embedding mentoring with an organisation can help to instil a culture of progress and change – developing the skills and expertise of managers as well as those at the lower rungs of the ladder, helping all to progress and bring positive results to the business. But what makes a great mentor?
Patience is a virtue
Mentoring someone isn’t easy. Depending on your organisation, you might be working with someone low on confidence, completely new to the industry, entering the world of work for the first time or learning a whole new suite of skills.
A great mentor is patient, able to manage difficult situations and offer well-judged, balanced constructive criticism.
Make it a relationship
The mentor-mentee dynamic is not the same as line manager and employee. If you care about being a mentor, then you’ll care about your mentee. This makes the dynamic emotional – it’s a relationship.
What’s more, this is a relationship that will likely continue long after the mentoring initiative has finished. A great mentor enjoys a long-term relationship with their mentee, still in touch professionally years down the line.
A great mentor doesn’t smile and say ‘well done!’ all the time. Mentors should certainly be encouraging, yes, but if they fail to spot when their mentee is going off-track they won’t be helping them.
An effective mentor is fair – you’re not there to pick holes and criticise but to step in when something’s gone wrong. Explain why it’s happened, point out the problem and discuss. Put steps in place to make it better.
Feed back and follow-up
A great mentor ensures their mentee knows their progress is being monitored. Set up regular reviews – say once a week.
Why do you want to be a mentor? Your main reason should be that you want to help others. Certainly, being a mentor brings with it a number of associated benefits. But if you’re not passionate about helping someone else develop, there is simply no point in doing it at all.
Fi Donovan, head of organisational development at Skills for Justice.
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