How to Develop an Effective Mentoring Relationship

Not everyone is born a leader, but anyone is capable of becoming one. Leadership focuses on building others and transforming potential. Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he [or she] wants to do it.”

What expectations do you have for your team members? While it is important to acknowledge what you would like them to accomplish, you should also address how you can contribute to their success — not only as team members— but also as individuals. Do you try to focus on your team’s performance as a whole, or individually? Do you tend to concentrate on performance-enhancing skills such as time management, communication, or organizational skills? Or, do you try to focus on everyone’s unique qualities? How can you help others meet their potential through leadership? The first step is to become an effective mentor.

Here are four great tips for establishing a powerful mentor-mentee relationship:

1) Help your mentees understand their own potential.

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” — Bob Proctor

Leaders can spot their colleagues’ potential, even when they can’t. Helping your team members understand their unique abilities builds a strong foundation, which ultimately creates long-term benefits. This understanding will create more confidence, motivation, and even improve their self-awareness. Sometimes helping others make these realizations is as simple as telling them specifically what you appreciated about their work a project they completed. Be sure to tell them why it’s appreciated and how their talents differentiate from the rest. You can also accomplish this by pointing out their intellectual skills and how those skills contribute to their work performance. This may seem obvious, but you may be surprised just how little people know about themselves.

2) Being a mentor means taking on multiple roles.

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg

Mentors should always have an open mind. When you are a mentor, you are not just a manager or supervisor- you are also a teacher, a coach, and most importantly, a learner. Like mentees, mentors should always be open to learning new things. Being a mentor requires a lot of patience, understanding, and even empathy. People invest time with mentors because they seek guidance or advice. Mentees don’t necessarily expect you to know everything, but they do hope to gain insight, no matter how big or small. Share the knowledge you have gained through experience. Your words of wisdom have no limitations. You can discuss the good, the bad, the ugly, including personal successes and failures throughout your career, but don’t forget to listen and learn from your mentee, too.  

3) The relationship between mentor and mentee is a process.  

“Advice is like snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.” —  Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Effective mentoring doesn’t happen overnight. Keep in mind that every situation is different. You must adjust your approach with each person because no one is the same; everyone learns and operates differently. A great way to understand the way an individual thinks and works is by encouraging them to share their ideas. Not only does this stimulate the mentee’s self-reflection, but it is also an effective method for understanding their thinking style and the way they prefer approaching tasks. The more you understand your mentee, the more you can help them succeed.

4) Encourage mentees to set goals.

“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” — John C. Maxwell

All mentees have a different mindset or sense of direction, especially at different stages of their career. You can keep them accountable by encouraging them to set their own goals. How do they want to improve? What do they want to learn? Where would they like to be five years from now? Regardless of the mentee’s aspirations, mentors find ways to contribute to their professional growth. Meeting once a week is a good way to keep them on track. Every successful mentor-mentee relationship is created and sustained with mutual trust, respect, and acceptance.