I believe that most of us can agree that we attribute our professional trajectory and successes to our early leaders that were great mentors to us. It is hard to teach someone to become a mentor. The selfless effort one puts in to being a great mentor comes from the inspiration from our own mentors and our gratitude for their time and wisdom. As leaders, when we encounter challenging situations, it’s helpful to think about how our best leaders or mentors would handle the situations. It’s also helpful to read and learn from the experience of others and cultivate our own approach and best practices. Here are my 10 best practices for well-rounded mentoring and for taking your mentorship to the next level.
Provide experiences and opportunities for your team members: Always think about what experiences could help your team members take their skills or experience to the next level. Whether a conference, a course, or a site visit, growth comes from expansion of knowledge.
Tie learnings to application: Many leaders send their teams to courses but seldom provide the tie back to an application at work. I talk about the importance of this in my new book, Awake Ethics. If you send your tea members to learn but don’t provide a bridge to application, the learnings are often forgotten. Make sure you send team members to learning opportunities where they can apply their learnings back at work and help them to do so. This helps the growth and productivity of the team as well as the individual.
Spend time with your team members: Of course, spending time with team members to understand their skills as well as their interests is so important for matching them with the right type of work and the right educational opportunities. This also helps you to learn their skillsets and best delegate work. You can spend time with team members through group team meetings or one-on-one touch bases to discuss work and future interests.
Give context for the work you do: Show team members how their work fits into the greater whole of the organization. This can be done through site visits (or what I call Context visits in Awake Leadership) or cross-functional projects and meetings.
Don’t over share about your own experience: Many leaders think mentorship is about having a long lunch or event to share their own career experience and “wisdom”. Though this is nice to get to know each other and can be inspiration, it is just one small aspect of mentoring. Team members really want and need to learn skills and expertise that is applicable – the stuff to pass on from your path. Instead, spend more time along side them applying your wisdom and expertise to real-time challenges and problems to transfer skills and wisdom.
Give support and flexibility: Of course, always ask team members how you can further support their work. Support is fuel for their best work. Take time to ask them and discuss what you be improved about their work conditions and schedule.
Give a balance of positive and constructive acknowledgement: One of the more impactful gifts that mentors give team members is the gift of understanding their own strengths and opportunities. Giving your team members positive acknowledgement when they complete a task or contribute an idea or feedback provides motivation. Give your team members genuine constructive feedback when needed, but always precede it with a positive comment. Leaders are mirrors for team members. Team members often can’t see their own strengths and weaknesses early on – team members need leaders to point out our strengths and help build confidence. Team members benefit from positive encouragement from someone they respect to keep pursuing their objectives and continuing to give each day their best effort.
Give tools and skills that make the team stronger: Proactively look out for tools and resources that could bring new potential to the team. Also encourage team members to look for new tools that could make their work more efficient and enjoyable.
Make time for constructive rest: Allow and encourage team members to take time off, especially on the weekends. Burnout often results from an over-worked team. This doesn’t just hurt people health-wise but also hurts the productivity and of the team. It’s not sustainable to work tirelessly without breaks. Breaks are constructive for the sustainability of your progress.
Make time for fun: Plan team events aside from team meetings and touchbases. I provide some office as well as offsite team activity ideas in Awake Leadership.
Team members may join your team based on what you have done, what you plan to do, and your reputation, but they will stay on your team and respect you in the long run based on what you teach them and how you treat them. Great leaders help team members discover new terrain, overcome obstacles, and move forward toward their highest potential. Leaders that are mentorial open a realm of skills and possibilities that their team members may have not known was possible.
What are your best practices as a mentor?
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If you would like more applied exercises for how to provide experiences and opportunities for development for your team, check out my new book, Awake Ethics. The second section of Awake Ethics is all about Non-Stealing; that is, Non-Stealing of experiences and potential from our team members and ourselves.
Read more about Awake Ethics as www.awakeleadershipguide.com/ethics.