Mentoring can be hugely beneficial for both mentors and mentees but becoming a successful mentor is not as straightforward as it might seem.
Today more than 70 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 offer formal mentoring programmes to their employees, and in the UK, 75% of companies use formal coaching programmes as a development tool for their staff. However, a successful mentoring relationship requires time, effort and commitment. Both sides need to see this as an opportunity to create a mutually productive relationship as opposed to just a box-ticking exercise.
So how do you ensure that a mentoring programme works for both sides? As a mentor myself, here are my top tips to making it a success.
This may seem obvious, but the first rule of a good mentoring programme is making sure that both mentors and mentees enjoy working together. It’s not just about doling out advice and discussing your own professional success, it’s about having genuine, engaging conversations.
Like any relationship, a personal connection will make the experience far more rewarding for both sides. Part of this entails actually liking each other. It’s crucial for there to be a good fit between the mentor and mentee, and this rapport should be assessed openly and honestly right at the start, during the very first meeting.
Mentoring is a two-sided relationship, where both mentor and mentee need to understand what they can offer and gain from each other. And, they each should enjoy spending time with the other person.
If it becomes clear that the relationship isn’t working, it’s just as important to recognise this sooner rather than later. Instead of trying to force a relationship, it may be a better idea for the mentor to point the mentee towards someone else who may be a better fit.
A mentor programme isn’t necessarily part of the standard job description, but that isn’t to say it shouldn’t be treated as a responsibility. Therefore it’s important for both parties to be strict with their diaries.
Of course, there will always be last-minute meetings and obligations, and it’s often a struggle to juggle everything at once, but if these meetings aren’t prioritised, they just won’t happen. From the start of your mentor programme, agree how often meetings will happen and then prioritise them in your diary. Regular contact and discussion is essential for a mentor relationship to work, particularly at the beginning.
I’ve often found that the issue your mentee might have doesn’t actually benefit from hours of discussion to come up with a detailed strategy for addressing it. Instead, working regularly through small, achievable goals can often be far more productive.
Don’t try to create a 20 step scheme to better your mentee’s development, but take it one step at a time. The good news is, this approach often only requires short discussions, so you can continue to build a friendly relationship by chatting over lunch or a drink.
Business is all about networking. As an experienced professional, a mentor will have built up a lot of useful and reliable contacts over the years, which can be invaluable to a mentee. Part of being a mentor is enabling opportunities, as well as offering advice, and sharing your network can go a long way towards helping your mentee.
This goes both ways though. You can also encourage your mentee to share their network with you to empower them and create a more rewarding relationship. If you mentor several people, you can use their networks to create an ecosystem for your mentees.
Your mentees may not necessarily think to explore their personal values, strengths and end goals. It’s important for the mentor to encourage introspection. People will only gain a sense of fulfilment in their careers if they can combine what is really important to them with the areas in which they excel.
The responsibility of the mentor is helping their mentee find happiness at work and this is why the best mentors often see their role as one that goes beyond just giving advice.
Ultimately, the goal is to guide mentees through issues and help them build the confidence to tackle these issues themselves and forge their own unique path to success. Not to follow in your footsteps, or anyone else’s.
At Salesforce we deeply encourage mentoring at all levels across the business. If you'd like to find out about open opportunites, visit our careers pape and maybe you could join the #SalesforceOhana.