Behind many successful business owners is someone who helped them along the way. That individual gave them advice, challenged them and provided inspiration. For many, it was a mentor. If you’re thinking about “paying it forward” as a mentor, here are some tips to become a great one.
What’s in It for You?
It’s not just the mentee who benefits from the relationship. The mentor can take away something too. Here are just a few of the rewards:
- Build your business – Developing a promising employee is an investment in your business. It raises their skill level. And you are exposed to new ideas that can help you grow your business.
- Advance your own skills – Learning a new skill is one thing but teaching it to others requires mastery. You have to understand the subject well enough to apply it to new situations.
- Improve your leadership skills – It gives you the opportunity to provide direction, give feedback and keep someone motivated. All of these skills are essential elements of good leaders.
5 Tips to Be a Great Mentor
Being a first-time mentor can be challenging but here are some guidelines that can help:
- Block out the time – Mentoring takes time above and beyond what you are doing to run your business. So be willing to commit to the time needed. You and your mentee should determine that from the start. Some like to meet weekly, others meet when they need it.
- Insist on a plan – It’s difficult to help someone achieve their goals if you don’t know what they are. Together, you should have specific, written goals along with a timeline and action plan for achieving them. It will help you structure your sessions and serve as a checkpoint to see if you’re on track.
- Listen more than you talk – Resist the urge to jump in and tell the mentee what to do. Instead ask more questions, then sit back and listen. Make it a habit of probing for more information and help them problem solve. The ultimate goal is to make you obsolete. You can’t do that if you’re providing all of the answers.
- Call in consultants – You won’t always have the answers. So introduce mentees to a colleague who can help. That helps expand their circle of support and gives them another perspective on an issue. It helps them see the big picture.
- Be honest – It’s important to provide encouragement, especially when your mentee is working through a setback. But it’s also a time to provide honest feedback even if it’s negative. It’s the balance of these two that will help them develop the skills to face future challenges.
Mentoring can be an important way to give back—to the mentee and to you. It’s an opportunity to develop talent and to learn something in the process. Consider these tips to make the most of your mentoring experience.