How to be a great mentor
By Brenna Lofquist, Senior Marketing Consultant / Client Services Operations at Heinz Marketing
One of the responsibilities of being a Senior Consultant at Heinz Marketing includes mentoring others. We really strive to invest in our employees and grow within wherever possible and mentoring is a huge part of this. With varying levels of experience within B2B marketing as well as at Heinz Marketing, we rely on each other to share knowledge.
Here’s some tips and best practices that I’ve learned through research and LinkedIn Learning courses.
Find the framework that works best for you
There are probably tons of mentoring and coaching frameworks out there, so take the time to learn about each one and determine which will work best for your situation. One thing I learned from Sara Canady’s LinkedIn Learning session “Coaching Skills for Leaders and Managers”, is that they all follow a similar process which includes:
- Understanding the coachee/mentee’s perspective
- Gain agreement of the current situation versus the ideal situation
- Which basically means to identify the gap(s)
- Work together to brainstorm solutions to meet the goals
This might be the most important aspect of mentoring. If your mentee doesn’t feel like you are listening, the mentorship is not going to work. There’s a few ways you can build this relationship with your mentee and to improve your listening skills.
- Listen on a deeper level
- You can do this by asking open-ended questions. This not only gets your mentee talking but also ensures you are letting them make their own path instead of pushing your own thoughts and opinions. You can help them improve their decision-making skills by guiding them, instead of leading them to the answer.
- Be patient
- Before starting a mentor session, make sure you’re in the right mindset. Remind yourself that you are their coach, their advocate, and you are on their side. Make sure you don’t interrupt and don’t jump in with advice or volunteer the answer.
- Demonstrate that you’re actively listening
- The easiest way to do this is through your body language. If you are actively listening and engaged, you want to make sure your body language reflects that. Remove outside distractions and do whatever you need to stay engaged. This might be hard since a lot of people are still remote. If that’s the case try to be on video or meet in person, if you can.
Offer constructive criticism and feedback
Most shy away from providing feedback however, it’s key to improving and learning. You don’t want to judge or offend your mentee, there is a way to deliver criticism without breaking their confidence.
- Share your experiences
- This is a great way to send a message without criticizing them directly. For example, tell them about a mistake you made and how you learned from it. Usually the mentee will pick up on the comparison and subtle message.
- Point out something positive
- Instead of only noting their mistakes, point out something positive and offer guidance to improve their work.
It’s important to relate to your mentee and understand their perspective and feelings. You should pick up on their energy and adjust to help them work through it. Empathy can be taught and takes practice, not everyone is empathetic right off the bat. Everyone has different skills, progresses at different rates, etc. and you have to put aside your feelings and thoughts so you can be the best mentor.
Be a positive role model
It’s like the saying “monkey see, monkey do”. Your mentee can learn a lot by observing and learning from your words and actions. This goes both ways meaning mentees can experience positive and negative behaviors, so it’s important to demonstrate positive behaviors. You don’t want your mentee picking up on negative behaviors and duplicating them.
Mentoring can be highly valuable whether that’s within your organization or someone you’ve crossed paths with in your life. I would encourage everyone to have a mentor and not to be afraid to reach out and ask. Just make sure you have some objectives your mentor can assist with to make sure you both are getting the most out of the relationship!