Heavy lies the crown. Success brings many rewards and many responsibilities. One of the greatest responsibilities your success bestows upon you is passing everything you’ve learned on to others who are eager to develop their careers. The very best leaders don’t see the next generation as a threat, withhold information and force their teams to rely on them. Great leaders see the next generation as an opportunity to carry the torch. They devote their time to mold their teams with the tools and insight to surpass their own achievements.
Business cultures are forced to evolve as technology expands exponentially, information becomes more accessible and work forces become more transient. Many business cultures are quickly shifting away from “need to know” relationships and shifting towards cultures of transparency, accountability and individual decision making. Employees at organizations who have embraced this evolution are typically inspired to learn and achieve more.
Serving as a mentor provides a wonderful opportunity to develop people in your organization, industry or social circles. Below are ten considerations to maximize your mentorship opportunities:
Focus on potential: Executives often make three common mistakes when they consider who to mentor or what to discuss in their sessions. They focus on where they perceive people currently are in their careers, what peoples’ past performance has indicated and what they perceive as the next logical professional steps for their employees. Each of these perspectives can limit the scope of how and who a mentor engages. When you take the time to mentor someone work to inspire their belief in their own potential as you help them find their own path forward.
Demonstrate interest in the people: We gain so much more from our relationships when we feel people care about us personally. Don’t strictly limit your mentorship to business conversations. Sharing life lessons about relationships, finances, health and other hard lessons learned can education and motivate your employees.
Dedicate the time: Time is the most precious resource every human being has. To truly impact someone’s life, you have to dedicate the time. Mentors need to dedicate the time to prepare for, execute, eliminate distractions during, and (most importantly) follow up after their meetings. The best way to convince someone we care about them is to dedicate time where you are clearly focused on them.
Overshare information: The days of leaders squirreling away secrets have passed the business world by. Anyone can find the information they are looking for, as long as they have the time and patience to search the internet for it. If your best people learn the skills they need to succeed elsewhere, you can expect them to take their talents elsewhere. The more “secrets to success” you share, the more people will see value in you and want to follow you.
Encourage mistakes: Our brains are wired to learn the most from the mistakes we survive. Encourage the people you mentor to go out and make productive mistakes. Embarrassment is the number one fear that stops most people from trying most new things. The more people get comfortable making mistakes, and openly discussing them with you, the more they will be able to push beyond their own preconceived limits to develop personally and professionally.
Build confidence in others: Confidence comes from being prepared, experience, and surviving mistakes. Teach those who trust you how to prepare for their important projects and interactions. If they don’t have “experience” yet, you can leverage similar stories from your experiences to lead them down the correct path of action. Turn mistakes into learning opportunities. When people realize their mistakes weren’t fatal they regain their composure and spin their mistakes into experience – which increases their confidence.
Separate the process from the results: It is easy for leaders to focus on the results when they are coaching others. This is dangerous as results can be misleading. It is quite possible to do everything right and end up with a poor result. It’s also quite possible to do everything wrong, and luckily generate a positive outcome. Results based coaching may reverse good behaviors or encourage bad behaviors. Process focused coaching allows leaders to teach people how to problem solve, reinforce correct behaviors and allow the results to take care of themselves.
Teach people to think for themselves: Great mentors don’t simply provide answers. Great mentors teach their employees to solve their own problems. They ask their employees questions and lead them down the path of self-discovery. Go beyond sharing success stories and challenge people who look up to you with questions and problems they have to learn to solve. When they bring you their solutions, coach them on the process they used to create their solutions, not the solutions themselves.
Challenge People: Providing feedback and advice are important components of mentoring. However, simply providing reassurance is not equal mentoring. High potential people love, and need, to be challenged. They need to be pushed to think differently, act differently, and understand their surroundings differently. Patting people on the back provides them with temporary comfort. Challenging people to grow in unexpected ways provides them with a lifetime worth of potential value.
Remember you’re different: How you activated your knowledge and survived your experiences may be different than how others activate their knowledge and survive their experiences. Part of being a great mentor is providing a framework that allows people to discover their best selves. Mentoring does not translate to creating clones of yourself. Take the time to get to know the people you support, understand their motivations and fears, and provide them with guidance, and avoid trying to create a mirror image of yourself.
The true test of a leader is not what he or she can accomplish personally. The true test of a leader is how many people they inspire and develop to exceed any previous expectations. When executed properly mentorship is a gift to all involved and should create opportunities for mentors to learn and grow as well. Thank you for donating your time and experience to the next generation.
Michael Reddington, CFI is an executive resource, the president of InQuasive, Inc. and the creator of the Disciplined Listening Method. He teaches leaders from all industries and specialties how to apply strategic, ethical persuasion techniques in all of their conversations. To learn more contact Michael directly at +1 (704) 256-7116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.