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How to Be a Good Mentor

Being a mentor is a two way street.

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I’ve always believed that it’s the responsibility of leaders to create future leaders. I say this because I’m what I am with the help of people who have guided me towards the right path of achieving what I intended to. In the course of our career journey, one way or the other, all of us have had help. We look for inspiration or motivation from people we know had the experience in dealing with various tough situations. It’s these people who mentor us in becoming confident, motivate us to be a better version of ourselves and guide us how to look for solutions in case we are stuck in any difficult situation.

Once we are established, it’s time for us to give back, think about the legacy we can leave behind, which sometimes as leaders with all the responsibilities in hand we may tend to neglect. I remember the time when I was heading various geographies for the company, I used to often meet my colleagues, understand their pain points and helped them in any manner possible. May it be about guiding how to get a client which was tough to crack or ways that can help my colleagues enhance their profile. I was able to help them out considering I had juggled across various profiles. However, all of a sudden such discussions reduced. I was certainly there to help out people when they asked for it, but proactively advising them on what could have been done differently or been better almost stopped. It was during one of the discussions with my colleague that we came up with a solution to this dilemma i.e. introduction of mentorship clubs not only for the youngsters who have the potential to be future leaders, but also for the senior experienced professionals who can take up the mantle by understanding the day to day workings of a leader. 

Building the channel and ensuring that you are there to guide people is half battle won. The other half is to take out time to mentor people. For you as a leader, a mentorship session may be one of the things in your schedule, but for your mentee/mentees it may be the highlight of their day. Respecting them and dedicating that hour completely gives them faith that you’re there to listen to them. Leverage this time to know more about the person you’re mentoring, ask them questions that can give you insights on who they are and what they want to be. This understanding at an initial stage itself helps you chart out the next stages of mentoring. I remember, that in the first session of our future leaders club, we had dedicated an entire session just for introduction. I was able to build connect with each and every member on a separate level. This helped me alter my approach for every person based on their interest. Also, ensure that you’re regularly in touch with your mentee. For instance, I regularly share articles which I find interesting and think may interest the mentees in the club.  

In this write-up, I’ve used one keyword pertaining to mentoring multiple times deliberately i.e. guiding. This is mainly to lay emphasis on the fact that being a mentor doesn’t mean that you serve solutions to your mentee’s problems on a silver platter, it’s all about making themindependent, making them think what the right path isand encouraging failure if they make mistakes. Don’t try to impose your thoughts or beliefs, instead allow them to try by themselves. It’s only then can you give constructive feedback that can enable their progress. For instance, one of my colleagues told me that he’s facing an issue in sales in a specific region. I asked him, what he has done so far and where does he think things are going awry. This reflective discussion helped him come up with a solution himself. Later, he came back with the same problem mentioning things didn’t work out the way he expected them to. It was then that I analyzed his approach, mentioned that as per my experience in that region, another approach may work. This direction helped him change his course of action, try a different approach and he ultimately achieved the desired result on his own. This level of engagement and faith helps keep your mentee motivated and pursue their goals with more determination as they know you’re there to support them even if things go wrong.

Lastly and more importantly, be empathetic towards your mentee and walk the talk. It’s crucial for a mentor to understand the ups and downs their protégé is going through and share their experiences of what they did in such times. Here, I don’t mean just sharing your success stories, but also your failures and steps you took to bounce back. This gives your mentees a sense that a particular thing is doable. Also, practice what you say. There’s a lot which your mentee can learn just by observing you, may be tackling a problem you’re facing in an important project. This can show them how you react when you come across any obstacles and take the accountability. As a part of the future leaders club, my mentees are given exposure to strategic company meetings and there are times when stakeholders question us. It gives mentees an opportunity to see how company leaders tactically answer such questions and even accept responsibility if things go wrong. Talking them through your processes, relating them to what they are facing and discussing multiple ways of handling a tough situation can lead your mentee to the right path. 

Believe me, being a mentor is the most rewarding experiencewhere you find genuine joy in helping others. It’s a two way street, wherein knowledge sharing happens both ways, while your mentee does gain from your experiences, you too get to know different perspectives and are able to strengthen your leadership skills. Hence, I feel that it’s only when you invest in the present, can you build a robust legacy for the future.