A mentor's (and former mentee!) top 5 tips for mentoring

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A common statement is that the only constant in business is change. This means we must all be constantly learning so we can adapt, develop and grow. It is for this reason that I am passionate about the role mentoring can play for everyone in an organisation. As someone who has been mentored throughout my career and now working with leaders and juniors alike as a business mentor I witness each day the benefits of mentoring both from a business and personal perspective. I would like to share my top 5 tips when it comes to mentoring.

It’s for everyone

A common assumption is that mentoring is for junior people in the organisation as they find their feet with their career path. However, it’s applicable right the way up through the organisation to CxO level. This is where I spent a lot of time working with business leaders. The roles of the Managing Director and senior management teams can often be quite lonely places with no one to bounce ideas and troubleshoot issues off. Having a mentor to confide in and discuss options is a probably one of the key benefits of the mentor/ mentee relationship.

Sharing is caring

Like every relationship, mentoring is a two-way relationship. You get out what you put in and that applies to both the mentor and the mentee. Make sure both parties are well prepared for a mentoring session in advance so you get real value out of the sessions. To jump into mentoring properly you need to allocate the time to prepare and really understand what you want to get out of it and after each session reflect on your learnings and implement any agreed actions.

Pick wisely

Get the right mentor. There is obviously benefits to getting something completely left of field to what you do and know but having a mentor who understands your sector and business brings fantastic insights and support. Pick someone who has taken a similar path to you in the past and has the scares to prove it. Through shared experiences they will help you flag the common pitfalls they experienced. You will also be able to learn from their past successes and “ways of working” of relevance to your sector.

It’s not management advice

The mentor will not tell you how to run your business. They are simply a sounding board with shared experiences. Don’t expect them to wave a magic wand and fix your problems. Through their experiences, a good mentor listens, understands and suggests a path forward to overcome your challenges quicker than you would alone, steering you from pitfalls they hit themselves in the past.

Honesty is the best policy

MDs and senior leadership people have by their position a lot of clout, influence, strong opinions and conviction in their ideas. This means they often overpower views held by other staff members or equally are surrounded by YES people who don’t challenge. With mentoring, honesty is truly the best policy – it facilitates an environment where both parties can let down their guards, where the mentee really values the impartial, open-minded, non-agenda driven view of the mentor. Problems and challenges can be identified and worked on quicker, nothing is taboo and nobody gets offended due to the neutral territory.