Anyone wanting to learn more about a particular industry or specific job can benefit from a mentor. Working directly with someone offers a better hands-on opportunity for learning and growth, which is why mentorship programs are often so successful.
Whether your workplace has one of those programs or you just want to be a supportive coworker, getting involved with mentorship at work can take many forms.
If you’ve been in your industry for a while and you have experience and advice to share, consider how you can be an effective mentor to those who are just getting their feet wet.
By choosing to be a strong mentor, you can help the next generation of workers in your industry move things forward to greater heights. You’ll also help to guarantee that the people you mentor learn how to do things the right way rather than cutting corners or taking unnecessary paths to success.
Plus, you’ll gain some personal benefits. The benefits of being a mentor include things like increased self-confidence and self-awareness, boosted satisfaction, and improved communication skills. Additionally, you never know what you might learn from your mentee when you choose to be an active listener.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how you can be an effective mentor in the workplace and lead the next generation in your industry toward more significant growth and success.
Be a Strong Communicator
If you’re in a leadership position, you’ve probably already developed some necessary communication skills over the years. However, it’s never a bad idea to brush up on those skills or even learn new ones, no matter how long you’ve been active in your career.
As a mentor, you’re likely to come across a lot of organizational silos. It will be up to you to communicate and connect with people with different skill sets and roles. You might not want to communicate the same way with everyone, so it’s important to establish an environment of open communication.
By doing that while sharing your knowledge and expertise, your training and teaching will improve your company's customer experience. Luckily, there are steps you can take to be an effective communicator.
First, treat people as equals. There might be a built-in hierarchy when you’re the teacher and someone is the mentee. However, that shouldn’t be an excuse to talk down to them or assume they don’t know anything. As you communicate with the people you’re advising, keep the following communicative tips in mind:
- Set your goals and expectations clearly
- Make sure you’re scheduling plenty of one-on-one time
- Repeat important messages
- Give praise where it’s due
It’s also important to be an active listener. Even if you’re the one doing the teaching, you should never put yourself in a position that’s “above” learning something new or showing your gratitude and appreciation toward a mentee who did something for your benefit. By being a strong listener, you’ll be able to help employees faster, get to the bottom of any underlying questions, and learn about their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses.
Encourage Collaborative Decision-making
Just because you’re mentoring someone doesn’t mean they don’t have the ability to make informed decisions.
While it can be tempting to jump in and take the wheel on every decision, give your mentee the time to make their own, or offer a collaborative process that provides your expertise and experience to give them the tools they need to make better decisions. You’re still there when it comes to offering advice, but your mentee is ultimately the one in control.
There are a few benefits to this approach. First, you’re serving as a sort of life preserver for your mentee while letting them learn how to swim on their own. They might be in the water, but you’re there to offer a helping hand when it’s needed.
Second, this approach will boost the self-esteem and confidence of your mentee. A lack of confidence is what holds so many people back from making good decisions or trusting their gut. By letting your mentee take the reins and providing your support from “behind the curtain,” you’re showing them a level of trust they’ll appreciate.
Offer Constructive Criticism
It’s important to understand that whomever you’re teaching and training wants to learn from you for a reason. Maybe they’re struggling in certain areas of their job. Or, maybe they need an overhaul on how to do things.
Whatever the case, make sure you offer plenty of constructive criticism. No one likes to be talked down to or treated as “less than” in any way. There’s a difference between traditional criticism and constructive criticism.
When you choose to organize your feedback in a positive way, you’ll easily tell the mentee where the problem was. You can start by praising them for the things they did correctly, and finish by making suggestions as to what they could do better. However, don’t just tell them how to do it — show them, and make sure they know why the new habit makes a difference.
Some people might not have an easy time receiving constructive criticism. If you have a mentee who fights back against your suggestions, show support. Most people get defensive when they’re trying their best and things still aren’t coming together. Attempt to work through those issues as a team, and let them know you have their back no matter what.
You never know what someone might be going through. That’s why it’s so important to be kind and compassionate to everyone in the workplace. When it comes to your mentee, however, empathy is key. When you’re spending that much time with someone, you should be able to pick up on certain cues that suggest they’re having a bad day or aren’t feeling well.
A little empathy can go a long way in the working world. It shows that you care about your coworkers and those you’re mentoring and that their well-being comes first. Almost everything else can wait.
If you struggle with empathy or you know it’s something you need to work on, try implementing some of these ideas:
- Listen and share your experiences
- Be curious about those around you
- Focus on your similarities
- Accept their interpretations of things
A little empathy goes a long way, and it can help you to establish a healthy connection with your mentees while allowing them to feel seen and heard.
Understand Your Many Roles
A strong mentor is more than just a teacher. You’ll have to wear many hats throughout the process, and those hats might need to be adjusted depending on whom you’re working with. One day you might serve as a workplace guide. Next, you might need to be a close friend to a coworker who is struggling in their personal life. The next day, you’ll benefit from being a positive role model to everyone under your training.
Ultimately, your goal should be to create an amalgamation of those roles so you can give everyone exactly what they need. When you start to understand your roles, you can focus on better development for the whole person rather than just helping someone improve their work life or find more professional success.
Encourage self-care habits in those you’re mentoring. It’s not selfish or lazy, and it can help to prevent job burnout, anxiety, stress, and depression. Self-care doesn’t have to be luxurious or extravagant. Things like cooking a healthy meal, exercising, or meditating are all great ways to reduce stress and strike a better work-life balance.
Becoming a mentor can be extremely rewarding. Use these ideas to get started, find the right people to work with, and help the next generation of employees to keep striving for success.