It is now widely accepted that mentoring can change careers and lives.
If you ask any successful businessperson, they will always (say they) have had a great mentor at some point along the road.
The Virgin group founder tapped into the knowledge of Sir Freddie Laker, a former airline founder, when he launched his Virgin airline.
In an interview Branson said "It's always good to have a helping hand at the start. I wouldn't have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker." He added, "Going it alone is an admirable, but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world."
And Richard Branson isn't the only business legend to use the guidance of a mentor, Microsoft's Bill Gates often cites Warren Buffet as the man who gave him guidance when he needed it. Buffet taught him how to deal with tough situations and to think long term. The relationship was reciprocal with Buffet saying "What I really most admire about Bill is the view he has about what he should do with the wealth he's accumulated...he knows he's a beneficiary of a terrific society."
And let's not forget that other famous mentoring relationship – Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook and Steve Jobs founder of Apple. In an interview Zuckerberg said of Jobs "He was amazing. I had a lot of questions for him." Jobs was Zuckerberg's inspiration and he gave him advice on how to build a team that was as focused as Zuckerberg on building "high quality and good things".
Whilst these high profile mentoring relationships are a great illustration of the power of mentoring, it isn't necessary to hook up to a high profile business leader or high flying professional to have an effective mentoring relationship. Indeed, a new employee mentoring programme is a good example of where mentoring is likely to be carried out by other, senior members of staff. An effective mentor needs to be able to understand their mentee's needs, recognise where they are in their career journey and help them make decisions about how to reach their goals.
Mentoring is an effective way of getting support in achieving career aspirations, however to make a mentoring relationship work there does need to be some important foundations.
1. Mentees should be open and flexible
While it is important that mentees enter a mentoring relationship with a clear idea of what they want from it, it is equally important that they are prepared to consider changing direction and explore new opportunities.
A mentor's role is to challenge and get the mentee to really think through why they want to do something and if it is the best course of action.
2. Focus on professional challenges
Mentoring is a relationship whereby the mentor is prepared to listen to the mentee talk about their hopes, aspirations, concerns and fears and to explore options in relation to these. However, it is important not to stray into personal challenges as this is an area a mentor may not be qualified to comment on. Mentoring should not be confused with counselling.
3. End each meeting with clear and positive actions
To avoid mentoring conversations drifting and relationships stalling it is important to set out clear goals at the start of the relationship and then ensure that each meeting is focussed on drawing out actions that need to be completed in order to bring the achievement of the goals closer. Mentees need to ensure that they then put in the effort to complete the actions otherwise progress will not be made and the relationship could stall.
4. Listening is key
The role of the mentor is not to spend the majority of the time talking to the mentee about their experience, it is to listen to the mentee, understand their needs, recognise where they are in their career journey and help them make decisions that will lead to them reaching their goals. As part of this process a mentor may feel it appropriate to share their experiences to illustrate a point, but shouldn't expect that the mentee will necessarily repeat that experience.
In a successful mentoring relationship, the mentor will encourage the mentee to become independent and recognise the uniqueness of their mentee's journey to professional development.
At PLD our mentoring platform is used by a wide range of organisations to match mentors and mentees and provide a mentoring framework and resources to ensure that relationships stay on track to achieve goals and objectives. If you would like to find out more why not request a demo.