“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”
~ Robert Frost
Randy is more than a little anxious. He’s been moving ahead rapidly on the fast track with his company and he knows that his C-level managers see him as an emerging leader. Now, however, his boss has just presented him with a new challenge: mentor two employees who have just joined the firm. Randy has had a few good mentors in the past, but there’s a big difference between having one and being one. And he hasn’t been one since he tutored his girlfriend in math when they were high school seniors. He needs to be ready in two weeks. What to do first?
Like all creative leaders, Randy begins to brainstorm and research. Within a few hours, he has the outline of a game plan and knows exactly what he needs to do to become a great mentor:
- Develop a servant mentality
- Ask the right questions
- Cultivate their strengths
- Model executive presence
- Put them in the spotlight
1. Develop a servant mentality.
The mentee is the star of your little show, so always keep him or her in the limelight. They may not be comfortable there, at least in the beginning. Every actor has butterflies on opening night, after all. Your job is to cheerlead, comfort, and encourage. And stay in the background.
2. Ask the right questions.
Robert Ridel, in his book Critical Thinking for Everyday Life, says that “to question is to understand.” Probing, open-ended questions often lead other people to discover answers and ideas that they didn’t know they had. Always approach questioning from the positive point of view:
- Why do you think that worked so well?
- What would you do differently next time?
- If you were the client, what questions would you ask?
3. Cultivate their strengths.
Being in a new position, or with a new company, is challenging in itself. Fear of failure may lie pretty close to the surface. Now is the time to remind your mentee of what she or he has already accomplished. They landed this job, didn’t they? And that was based on a track record of prior successes. Get them to talk about those successes and how to translate them into the current environment. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the downside. As George Lucas said, when discussing Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, “Mentors have a way of seeing more of our faults than we would like. It’s the only way we grow.” You can see both sides but always accentuate the positive.
4. Model executive presence.
You already have the right skills and attitude. That’s why you were chosen to become a mentor. You are not only talented, you create an impact when you enter the room. You know how to influence others, and you consistently provide added value to every project you manage. Always demonstrate these traits when working with your mentees. Come from a place of teaching, not from ego.
Good approach: “We just made a really successful presentation. Why do you think it worked?”
Not so good: “Wow! That was fantastic. I just love it when I knock it out of the park.”
5. Put them in the spotlight.
When your mentee scores a win, give him the credit. Let him know when he hits a home run. Don’t hesitate to brag to your peers and C-level executives about what a great job he’s doing. Then use that win as a foundation for continuing to grow.
Six months after Randy took on his first two mentees, he was asked to develop a mentoring model to be implemented company-wide. Today, mentoring is a way of life, based on the initial plan he put together.
Are you about to become a mentor? Or are you already a mentor and need some new ideas to motivate your mentees? Email Joel today for his suggestions.