Mentorship in Action: 10 Tips to Build More Effective Relationships
We just concluded a four-part series featuring mentee and mentor pairs from the Salesforce Equality Mentorship program, which seeks to create opportunities and widen access to senior leadership for our employees of color. Participants were matched according to their core competencies, a growth area for the mentee and a strength for the mentor, geographical location, and their relative experience. In this blog, we’ll share their top insights about mentoring. Learn more about our company’s Equality efforts.
There’s a growing body of research that finds mentoring correlated to important career outcomes such as higher salary level, promotion rate, and job satisfaction. Mentorship is an important career management tool.
In a New York Times article, Lizz Schumer notes, “When mid- and senior-level employees choose to mentor someone newer in the workforce, they can boost people who may not otherwise have those opportunities and help level the playing field.”
A mentor can play a pivotal role in an individual’s professional journey, helping them recognize their strengths, navigate the workplace, and build lasting relationships with colleagues. Mentors might be considered a key member of your personal board of directors — “a group of individuals you assemble in your mind for the purpose of navigating your career and life in general.”
Your personal board of directors might also include individuals who fill other roles including:
- Sponsor — A person who can influence a hiring decision or connect you with opportunities.
- Advocate — A colleague who speaks up for you when you’re not in the room, highlighting your strengths and recommending you for projects.
- Ally — Someone who is not a member of an underrepresented group (i.e. any group whose representation in an organization doesn’t reflect the general population) but who takes action to support that group.
- Thoughtful critic — An individual who asks questions that prompt you to pause and examine things.
- Industry expert — Someone who is well versed in the space you are trying to grow in.
In a mentoring relationship, the rewards for mentors go deep as well. Mentor Tanya Counter, AVP of General Commercial Sales notes, “Mentoring is extremely rewarding because it provides a bi-directional avenue for learning and growing with ever-changing topics and discussions.”
At Salesforce, we strive to attract individuals who crave growth and challenges. And we want them to succeed once they get here. Mentorship is one of the ways we support employees throughout their Salesforce journey — whether they’re in the early stages of their career or have been in the workforce for years.
As each of us can sit on both sides of the mentor/mentee relationship, we’re sharing our top tips for each role below.
5 Steps for Mentors to Elevate Their Leadership Skills
- Cultivate Equality at work
Cultivate Equality by practicing inclusive leadership, recognizing and addressing bias, treating others fairly, and working to widen access to opportunities. Consider the identities of those you have mentored and work to build an inclusive network. Remember, mentorship doesn’t always have to be formal. Consider how you can open the door for organic relationships, including those outside your team.
- Listen to understand
Get to know your mentee’s needs, goals, and challenges. Establish trust by becoming a sounding board. Lead Pardot Solution Engineer Julia Park reinforces this point, “I wanted another sounding board outside of my direct management to allow me space and permission to be fully candid with my feelings and opinions around my job.”
When you’re asked for help, brainstorm and explore possibilities together rather than directing based on your own point of view.
“A lot of times mentorship is just letting people bounce ideas off you,” shares Senior Director of Sales Strategy Willard Monroe. “They reach a conclusion themselves on how to move forward. If you insert your point of view too soon, you aren’t helping them develop the skills to pivot in real-time when you’re not around.”
- Help build skills
Pass along knowledge. Share insights, ideas, best practices, and stories. Provide constructive feedback and advice from a place of support, while offering or recommending stretch assignments.
Senior Digital Marketing Manager Loren Taylor wanted a mentor she could share her ideas, aspirations, and challenges with. “I needed to establish a professional relationship with someone who could encourage me to develop my voice as a leader,” she remarks. “I needed to better understand the right tools for different challenges and the needs of my team at Salesforce.”
- Model behavior
Demonstrate the behavior you’re recommending to your mentees. For example, add accountability to the relationship by setting expectations and a schedule. Emphasize the importance of wellbeing and healthy work/life integration. Encourage mentees to become mentors themselves — we each have skills and knowledge that can help others.
Amy Regan Morehouse, SVP of the Trailhead Academy & Go-to-Market Organization, suggests asking the mentee questions that they can get in the habit of asking themselves. “I think a good mentor is someone who asks lots of ‘why’ and ‘what if’ questions and offers ‘have you thought of’ ideas.”
- Embrace a beginner’s mind
Director of Software Engineering David Dieterich reminds us, “It’s important to set your assumptions aside and ask lots of questions. Seek to learn, understand, and grow.”
We couldn’t agree more. Approach the relationship with your mentee as an opportunity for both of you to grow. Mentoring offers many benefits, such as learning from the mentee’s expertise. If you’re thinking of mentoring someone, here are three things you can expect to gain.
- Improved Management Skills
When others are looking to you for guidance, it’s an opportunity to work on your motivation and communication skills.
- Enhanced Self-Awareness
Nothing helps you learn better than teaching a concept to someone else. So, when you pass on some advice to your mentee, reflect for a moment on its relevance to you.
- A Fresh Perspective
When a mentee has a problem, many of us ask questions to gain context of the situation. By stepping back, you can see the whole picture without getting caught in details or emotions that may hinder your mentee. Once learned, this is a skill you can apply to any situation, including your own.
- Improved Management Skills
5 Tips for Mentees to Improve Their Mentoring Relationship
- Know what you’re looking for in a mentor
Robert Cooper, a Senior Solution Engineer at Salesforce, encourages mentees to outline what they’re hoping to gain from the relationship. This can help hone your search for a mentor, or structure your conversations.
This first step of setting intentions for your relationship and preparing will lay a foundation for success. Julia shares, “For my first meeting with [my mentor] Willard, I prepped as I would for an interview!”
Taking an informal approach to mentorship? Small Business Essentials Adoption Coach Rachel Kim suggests asking friends for introductions, joining resource groups where you work, and attending community activities. “From there, everything revolves around relationships,” she says. And when you’ve found someone you’d like to learn from, remember it’s okay to take it slow. Robert adds, “Instead of asking someone if they’ll be your mentor, ask them for some advice. See if that leads to a sustainable relationship.”
- Embrace feedback as a gift
Trust that your mentor is sharing feedback or observations in a spirit of helpfulness. While you may feel vulnerable, this attitude of openness will help you learn and gain new perspective.
- Allow space for personal connection
While you may be laser-focused on meeting your next career goal, remember to pause and enjoy the relationship on a personal and human level. Not only will this invite joy and fun to the mentorship dynamic, but it will also allow you to get to know one another deeper.
Senior Digital Marketing Manager Loren Taylor shares that the best piece of advice her mentor gave her was decidedly personal. “It was advice that I normally hear from my closest friends and family,” Loren says. “It was to allow myself grace. I felt seen, heard, understood, and supported.”
- Be open and honest
Your mentor wants to hear about your total experience, so be open and honest about the opportunities and challenges you face in the workplace. With that knowledge, your mentor can give you a more structured, guided path to the next opportunity.
- Prepare to reflect
A mentor can help you process, troubleshoot, and connect with others. But there’s something you can do to make the most of that support — reflect and meditate on your career.
Willard advises, “Consider the job after this job. Don’t be reactive to something right in front of you. Make sure it fits into a longer path and do some soul-searching to understand what that path is.”
Take Charge of Your Career
A mentoring relationship will pay dividends for both involved. Before you click out, consider one commitment you can make this week to elevate your impact as a mentor or mentee. It could be as simple as sharing this article with a connection.