Here’s a soft skill that makes challenge us. While other soft skills are for own benefit, Mentoring offers us an opportunity to benefit someone else and by doing so, demonstrate our leadership in action.
In the office or on the Zoom screen, what do you see? A group of individuals. Consider them one-by-one. How are they doing? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Who would benefit from some specific input from you which could make a difference to them, to you and to the rest of your team?
Q1. Have you been asked by anyone to be their Mentor?
Q2. Has anyone told you that they would be prepared to Mentor you?
My guess is there’s a 75% chance that the answer is ‘no’ to both questions. To start with, mentoring isn’t on our radar. Anyway, we’ve got enough to do with what’s in front of us. If the thought does cross our mind it maybe something like…
‘Jane has potential. I’d like to help her get experience at a higher level but’..’
‘Jim has a lot of good suggestions and he has energy, but…’
That may be as far as we go. There is a reluctance on both sides to make the first move. We’re putting ourselves out there with the risk of being knocked back for taking ourselves too seriously. Well if we don’t who will?
Where I’ve seen Mentoring happening it’s been a scheme run by HR. The business is usually far sighted & people-oriented. A ‘Good Business’ that’s nurturing a culture of care.
So, one way to get started with Mentoring in your organisation is to suggest it to HR.
Mentoring can start informally in the pantry for example, with a question like ‘You know that stage in the demonstration where you explain the depreciation issue? I had trouble with that at first and someone told me to draw a diagram. I’ll show you if you like.’ You’ve opened a up whole new sphere of development for both of you.
It’s very often when we see somebody struggling with something we had difficulties with, that a Mentoring relationship begins.
One of those old adages that is actually useful in this context is to keep in mind that ‘there are no failures, only outcomes.’.
By the way, don’t think that mentoring will be all one way. Get ready for some new, out-of-the-box ideas coming back at you which contain fresh thinking from an entirely new perspective.
The first time that happens it can be such a surprise that your inclination could be to pretend you didn’t hear it but stick with it and ask them to tell you more. Now Mentor and Mentee are collaborating and we’re moving into a whole new soft skill.
Are you ready to be Mentored? Are you ready to be a Mentor? If ‘yes’, what’s the next step?