Time and time again people wonder why mentors sign up for a mentoring program and what they get out of participating. Some of the most common reasons include wanting to pay-it-forward or be a role model, or they simply feel honoured that someone thinks highly enough of them to recommend them for the role of mentor. But there are also several tangible skills that effective mentors develop and gain from being a mentor – valuable skills that help them stand out from the competition, move up the corporate ladder and accelerate their careers.
Building trust is one of the key ingredients of a successful mentoring relationship. To build a high level of trust with a mentee, a mentor must refine their rapport building skills, learn how to effectively engage in small talk and pay close attention to all facets of how they communicate. How they look, what they say and how they say it are all a part of creating a safe environment for the mentee. By learning how to build trust, the mentor makes the mentee feel comfortable about sharing experiences and asking questions, which allows the mentee to grow without fear of consequences to their career.
Formal mentoring relationships need clear expectations from the start. These include determining the length of the relationship, deciding where and when to meet and how they will communicate between meetings, setting the agenda for each meeting and defining how confidentiality will be handled. A mentor needs to learn how to hold their mentee and themselves accountable to those expectations. Refining these leadership skills help mentors become more effective team leaders when managing projects. And they also learn to feel more comfortable with colleagues when addressing issues about expectations.
The questions a mentor asks need to be structured in such a way that allows the mentee to reflect on a deeper level. Questions guide and empower a mentee into making important decisions on their own – decisions that they are happy with and that are right for them. Even though it may be easier for a mentor to provide a solution, learning to ask effective questions without answering them is a skill the mentor can use as a leader within their own organization.
Mentors help their mentees develop goals that are specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely – SMART goals. These goals are essential to ensuring that the mentoring relationship has a purpose and stays focused, and that the mentee continues to progress and grow. When a mentor helps a mentee develop goals, it also allows the mentor to refine their own goals, as well as those of their department and organization. Expanding the skill of being able to refine goals makes the mentor a greater contributor to their organization and its overall strategic plan.
Providing constructive feedback can be an extremely difficult task. If feedback is communicated in the wrong way, it can jeopardize a relationship. Learning how to deliver appropriate feedback correctly is a skill that improves with time and practice. A mentoring relationship gives mentors the opportunity to practice delivering feedback in a safe environment. Feedback can be given when they observe their mentee performing a skill or notice a behaviour that could be holding the mentee back from achieving greater success. Mentors can then ask their mentees for comments about how they delivered the feedback.
Anytime a mentor takes a mentoring relationship from informal conversations to meetings that are focused on developing the mentee, the mentor also has an opportunity to develop their own skills. As a result of these enhanced skills, mentors are six times more likely to receive a promotion and 20 percent more likely to receive a salary increase.i
We invite mentors to see the value for themselves by joining a mentoring program and taking an active role in developing future leaders and pushing their own skills to the next level. The ROI is Priceless™.
i Sun Microsystems compared the career progress of approximately 1,000 employees over a 5-year period.