Those of us, who have been fortunate enough to work with a mentor at some point in our lives, understand the importance of having such person next to us as part of our growth process. The role of a mentor is extremely influential in an individual’s career and it can pave the road to success for those who are trying to find their footing and want to take advantage of the experience that only comes from years of working in the industry. Career-changing is the perfect adjective to describe what a mentor can do for something who really wants to take charge of their own professional development, so today here in Suzzanne Uhland’s blog we want to use this opportunity to help mentors figure out what exactly their role entails and which practices do fall outside of their scope of practice. Even if you are not a mentor but a mentee, this information can be quite useful to help you analyze your own expectations and understand how you can best benefit from the relationship while at the same time giving back, as it is important to remember that mentoring is not a one-way street and the best mentorships are known for being a symbiotic exchange in which both parties grow, learn and become richer from an experience that should not be taken lightly.
Companies should also do their parts by understanding what they are asking for their senior leaders when they assign them as mentors and how they can best support the relationship by giving all parties involved the necessary tools to be successful in an endeavor that will surely help the organization greatly in the short and long term.
The difference between mentoring and coaching.
In some articles, you will see that people often put both of these terms in the same category which is not entirely wrong, but it is important to understand that coaching and mentoring are not ideas that can be referred to interchangeably because they do not mean the same thing. Mentoring normally is done in the long-term basis and with the growth and professional development of the mentee and while coaching has very similar ideals, it is not something that is done for a long time, since it focuses on very specific behaviors that need to be corrected or changed and some goals that want to be achieved. Both of these strategies are great and they work always with the benefit and growth of the mentee in mind, but while one has the characteristics of a marathon in which participants pace themselves and goals are set of the long term. Coaching usually yields results a lot faster because it focuses on something specific and time sensitive that the mentee wants to achieve.
Planning a short and long-term strategy.
Mentors and mentees work together in creating a strategy that includes both short and long-term goals. Think about those goals as a map before you go on a trip. It is necessary to understand where you are going so you can take the best route and also so you know exactly when you are going to get there. Setting up goals and benchmarks is sensible and quite responsible, and that is why this is one of the most important things a mentor has to encourage the mentee they have taken under their wing.
Encouragement and support.
Mentors sometimes work as cheerleaders as they provide support and encouragement to their mentees. Mentors are supposed to help their partners think outside of the box and go outside of their comfort zone to try new things and to see things from a different perspective. In order to do this, mentors need to identify resources that can help their mentees advance their development and grow in their professional world. Support can also be found in learning tools and materials such as books, workshops, and courses. As a mentor, it is great if you are interested enough in helping your mentees find such tools
Honest and raw advice.
A mentor has to be able to provide truthful and unadulterated advice so their mentees. It is not their job to pull any punches and their job is to say things honestly and without a filter, something that mentees probably would not be able to get anywhere else but from their mentors. This type of insight is very valuable and it is considered of the greatest things a mentor can offer their partners.
A mentor is not there to tell you how to do things.
This is very important to stay away from. Mentors should not be telling their partners how to do things; instead they are supposed to encourage them to find solutions and to be able to solve their own issues. Mentors are not problem-solvers but instead, they are partners that provide encouragement and guidance from a perspective of experience and professional knowledge.