As a manager you will have an important and unique role in not only getting results for your department and company, but also in developing the skill-sets, the knowledge and the responsibilities of your team members.
And today, one of the most important of those roles is being a mentor.
The word ‘Mentor’ comes from Homer’s Odyssey.
Mentōr was the name of the advisor of the young Telemachus.
Today, it’s thought of in business as being an experienced and trusted advisor.
Being a mentor means being able to communicate with your team members, or those you are mentoring, on a more personal level in order to help them develop the skills essential to growth and improvement.
Good mentors are able to embrace and develop four main skills.
Without these skills you will not be able to communicate with or aid in the enhancement of anyone’s performance.
These skills are as follows:
Observation skills: These are important because you must be able to see and understand what the person you are mentoring is currently doing and/or is capable of.
Observing what a team member is doing now may throw up some ideas about what they are capable of doing in the future.
It helps you establish the gap between where they are now and where you potentially see them being in the future.
Observe how they handle problems.
Are their creative-thinking strategies well-honed?
Do they see challenges as something to be faced with vigour and courage?
Also, watch how they use their communication skills with others.
Are they calm under pressure?
Do they respond thoughtfully rather than react impulsively?
By observing them, you notice where their strengths and development areas are, and you build up a picture of how mentoring can assist them in tapping into potential for improvement.
Next, Analytical skills will give you the tools you need in order to determine where the person you are working with is falling short and what changes may need to be made.
Thinking analytically is something that can be developed and honed over a period of time.
You can mentor your team member in helping them to analyse, tackle and sort new information, ideas, challenges and possible solutions.
Situations where analytical skills can be used could include building organisational skills, troubleshooting problems, setting budgets, researching future opportunities, creating data analysis, running diagnostics and improving creative thinking.
Mentoring your team member in these skills gets them thinking at a higher level and allows them to show you their value in key areas of the business.
Questioning and active listening skills are essential.
When mentoring, you don’t feed the person with whom you are working with a set of detailed instructions.
You have to probe and ask questions about what he does and does not understand.
You’re not a teacher, you’re a guide or a facilitator
If you don’t ask questions and listen to the answers you won’t know what needs to be done next.
But make sure your questions are at a deep enough level to get the person to be thinking in a way that develops their thinking skills.
The purpose here is to ensure they can see challenges in a different way and find answers that maybe others hadn’t considered before.
Naturally, your listening skills need to be in tip-top condition, so you can identify where the feedback your mentee is providing is adequate.
You’re not testing them as such; you’re helping them analyse situations and determine, through your keen interest in them as a person, where their development areas still exist.
Feedback skills are incredibly important as well.
You must be able to give honest feedback.
This sometimes may need to be of a development nature, as not everything the team member does will be the well thought through and adapted to the circumstances.
Having said that, negative feedback isn’t appropriate in most mentoring situations.
You must be able to correct the actions and behaviours of your mentee without making him feel as though he failed at a task.
Have the attitude that there are no failures, only outcomes.
If they can learn from an experience, they haven’t failed; they have learned how to ensure it never happens again.
Remember, the whole purpose of feedback is for the person to learn from the experience and improve their future performance.
Ask the person how they feel they are performing.
Highlight the successes they’ve achieved.
Build their character by mentoring the soft skills they need to be even more successful.
That way, your feedback will be welcomed and anticipated, rather than dreaded and rejected.
These four ideas, when implemented properly, build your confidence in mentoring your team members and offer support when it’s needed most.
Develop your skills as a mentor and your people will have their confidence developed also.
Senior Management Trainer and Consultant