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5 roadblocks to being a brilliant mentor

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Anyone who’s experienced a mentorship arrangement knows that it can be transformative for both parties. 

The person being mentored gains valuable insights and bespoke advice from someone more experienced than them, and the mentor can get a boost in management skills, reputation and even career prospects (according to one study, mentors are over 20% more likely to receive a pay rise and increase their chances of promotion sixfold). 

Yet like any other part of leadership, effective mentoring takes skill, development and practice. Let’s look at five things that could be stopping you from bringing a truly positive impact to your mentee. 

1 You chose the wrong person to mentor 

Depending on your seniority, you may get frequent requests to be a mentor. It’s crucial to vet your mentee properly before agreeing - after all, your time and energy are precious resources to invest. 

If you don’t already know them, it’s a smart idea to meet with a potential mentee for a coffee beforehand. Do you genuinely feel you have something to offer them? Can you see how they can grow and develop with your guidance? There’s no point entering into an arrangement if you don’t believe in the person you’re going to be helping or can’t see an affinity between you. 

2 You can’t commit 

To build a trusted mentoring relationship, you need to be able to commit to meet up regularly and consistently. 

Even with iron will and a watertight diary, there will be times when you have to cancel last-minute - but you’re more likely to avoid letdowns if you can clearly define a realistic schedule up front. 

That means mutually deciding how often you’ll meet, for how long and also how you’ll communicate (mentoring needn’t always be in person, as Facetime, Skype, phone, email and messaging can bring benefits). 

3 You haven’t set clear goals 

Of course, it’s essential to get on with your mentee and enjoy your sessions together. But mentoring is about helping them grow, develop and achieve in their career so it’s key to set goals from the start. 

These goals should be measurable, and time-specific - and as well as covering what you hope your mentee will achieve, but perhaps aims for your mentoring relationship, too. 

4 You jump in with advice 

Your mentee explains a situation or challenge they have at work, and the solution is crystal clear to you. Offering advice is tempting, isn’t it? But the way to help someone succeed is often to wait before giving advice. 

It might seem counterintuitive to hold back given your experience and knowledge, but your mentee may simply need a sounding board or a chance to vent their feelings on a tricky problem. So in these situations it’d be better to use active listening and guided questions to encourage them to make their own minds up. 

5 You’re not warts and all

Inspiring your mentee to greater heights is about showing them what a stellar career you’ve had so far, or is it?

While it’s important to share your successes - and no doubt the person you’re mentoring will appreciate learning about what’s gone well for you along the way - it’s also crucial to share your mistakes and failures, too. 

After all, it’s only by getting things wrong that we can truly learn, develop and grow. It’ll also help your mentee learn that resilience and persistence do pay off in the long-term - and they’ll feel more comfortable owning up to their own mistakes, too. 

Getting the best from the arrangement 

Our last piece of advice? Recognise the positive role you’re playing in someone else’s career journey. 

Candidates we recruit via HR GO often tell us about what they’ve gained long-term from being mentored, and it’s clear that mentoring can be a vital ingredient of professional development

Developing someone’s skills and helping them achieve their goals is something to be proud of – once you get the roadblocks out of the way.

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