Updated: Nov 6, 2020
Mentoring used to mean….
Giving career advice to a talented young person who doesn’t report to you. There was an emphasis on mutual admiration between mentor and mentee, with the pair thinking this way: “I think you have great potential and you respect my wisdom and experience.” This approach is still great and it happens a lot naturally. Almost anyone who aspires to build their career is seeking the advice of at least one mentor, and great leaders are always on the lookout for great upcoming talent. As this kind of mentor, you could be a family friend who is easy to talk to or you could be a manager who enjoys helping high-potential employees across the organization.
In the new workplace…
Mentoring has to be way more potent, because the stakes have been raised for getting fast results AND for attracting and keeping great the best talent. Old-style mentoring is too hit or miss. If you have direct reports, you must become a mentor to each and every person on your team. You can’t leave it to chance that they will be developed on time via outside relationships across the company or in their personal social spheres. You must do it on purpose–to speed up their impact on the job AND to keep them delighted about working in your enterprise.
What is the best way to mentor someone on your team?
Continuous coaching, with a lot of feedback. Think about it. When an employee is super-talented and there’s a lot of trust between the two of you, you are totally willing to clue them in about company politics, how they could make a better impression, and maybe even how to dress for a client meeting or presentation. They are happy to hear your advice because they know you have their back. Likewise, you are grateful to receive and act on their feedback for how to connect better with your team. When the “attraction” is there, you will go pretty far to help them through honest feedback and vice versa.
Decide that everyone on your team is high potential
And you are attracted to ALL of that potential. Every single person you manage has huge potential to improve and grow in their jobs. And you are in the position to harvest that potential for mutual gain. What a gold mine!
Encourage, yes. But include plenty of improvement ideas
If you provide both positive and corrective feedback in an empowering way and send a clear message that you believe in them, they will think you are the best manager they ever had. It’s only when they don’t feel your support that they think of you as an anti-mentor. Don’t shy away from giving lot of feedback.
Just try it.