Mentoring Your Staff

Before you start a mentoring relationship with your staff, you should know for sure if they are interested in being mentored. A mentoring relationship can be of extreme value to an organization, to you, and to your employees, but it can also create conflict if it is unwanted.

There is a difference between training and mentoring. All staff need to be trained in some manner for the job they will be doing. No two organizations do everything the exact same way and there will always be a period of time to train a new staff member in the ways of the organization. Training is not mentorship. Mentorship is a relationship where one person has decided they want to share some of their lessons learned for the benefit of someone else. Mentors should model by example and should be willing to share both their strengths and their weaknesses. It takes a special kind of person who is willing to be very transparent to be a good mentor.

On the other side you have the mentee. This individual should be willing to swallow his pride and be eager to learn the methods and techniques of the mentor. He should be willing to put in extra work to be able to really think through and apply what they are learning. A good mentee is being challenged and is given opportunities that are out of his comfort where a mentor can help him grow, in a safe environment, into a role. As a mentor you must always be a mentor. You can’t turn it on and off. One minute you cannot expect your staff member to try your techniques and be challenged by your way of thinking if you are not willing to provide true opportunities to grow and stretch their abilities.

It is important that this is a mutual relationship or it is possible for the mentor and mentee to resent each other. One might feel taken advantage of; another might feel micromanaged. But, both parties will feel disrespected, and that respect can be hard to gain back.

I imagine that you have had mentor mentee relationships. What tips do you have in making them successful?

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2 Responses to Mentoring Your Staff

  1. Phyllis says:

    I don’t have a list of mentor tips at the moment but I’d like to share someone else’s wise observation. Seth Godin blogged about this recently in a post comparing mentors to heroes. One thing he noticed is this: “Mentors provide bespoke guidance. They take a personal interest in you. It’s customized, rare and (psychically) expensive.” Ain’t that the truth. A good mentor is hard to find, but when the match happens it’s heavenly!

    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/10/heroes-and-mentors.html

  2. Gerry True says:

    Solid advice Jason! As far as tips for making them successful?

    1. Both the mentor and the mentee should come with prepared questions, 2 or 3 that help drive the conversation to a meaningful discussion. In the cases where I am investing personally in a team member but they have “not” asked to be mentored, I come with questions and hope those questions will open a dialogue. There must be a genuine desire to learn from the mentee since their experiences will sharpen the mentor through the discussion. The focus can not be on what the mentee can teach but what can both learn together on the journey. If the mentee has requested to be mentored, the burden of the questions rests on the mentee. If they can not come with questions I become concerned if there is truly a desire grow. Those who desire to grow personally come loaded with a long list of questions.

    2. Start with the foundation. Who is the person you are mentoring. Learn their story and what experiences shaped them into who they are. This provides context for discussions which help the mentor better understand the intent behind the questions. A mentor who provides insight out of a friendship will realize a greater impact and will likely find the experience personally valuable as well.

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