Mentoring is a valuable asset for any workplace or learning environment. Providing an opportunity for a less-experienced person within an organization to have access to someone with more experience can be a useful tool for professional development and for fostering improved communication within the organization. Quality mentorship will not only lead to efficient workplace environments, but will also improve relationships among members of the organization.
Finding and working with a mentor
Finding the right mentor is essential to developing a good relationship and getting the most out of a mentorship. A good mentor will have similar interests to you, a similar level of passion for the work that you do, and will be open to developing a relationship with you. Once you find a mentor, it’s crucial that you establish a means of communication early on and maintain communication throughout the process. You should actively seek feedback and advice from your mentor, and should also be willing to speak up if a problem ever arises. Mentorship is a two-way street, and it’s important that the process benefits both parties.
What traits do good leaders possess?
- Communication. The most important characteristic of a good leader is their willingness to communicate frequently with their mentees. Frequent communication between mentor and mentee allows the latter to feel comfortable talking to their mentor, ensures that any problems can be identified early, and allows for many opportunities for feedback on any work or other factors.
- Feedback. Providing adequate, timely, and constructive feedback is key for any leader. According to Deborah Petersen, providing a mentee with feedback is “one of the best ways to help them develop”, but it is important to do so in the correct manner, so the mentee feels “cared for, valued, and closer to [the mentor].” This includes providing feedback early, stating the advice from your point of view, and avoiding shaming. In her article Giving Negative Feedback Across Cultures, Erin Meyer says that the method with which leaders give negative feedback can vary across cultures, but it is important to respect the mentee no matter what.
- Respect. Respect is crucial to developing a positive relationship with a mentee. In the University of Washington’s Mentoring Guides for Students, good mentors treat students with respect by minimizing interruptions during meetings, telling the mentee what they have taught the mentor, and acknowledging prior experience of the mentee.
- Collaboration. What really sets apart great leaders is their willingness to look at a mentor-mentee relationship as a collaboration rather than a one-way relationship. According to Tanmay Vora, collaborative leaders lead themselves before leading others, listen carefully, develop connections with mentees, share knowledge openly, and seek feedback for themselves. These characteristics create a collaborative environment for mentors and mentees, allowing for improved relationships and more efficient workplaces.
How to provide feedback in professional settings
There are several things you can do to provide valuable feedback in a professional setting:
- Provide it early. This ensures that any problems are identified and dealt with quickly, so they don’t augment to a larger issue.
- Be generous. Make sure the feedback is constructive, and assume that the receiver of the feedback isn’t trying to be difficult.
- Avoid shaming. It is important to treat the other person with respect.
- Focus on behavior. Deborah Petersen: “It’s impossible to change someone’s personality, but it is possible to ask that your employee change his or her behavior.”
- State the fact from your point of view. Doing this avoids sounding like you are accusing the other person, but rather you are just explaining things from your point of view.
Meyer, E. (2015, September 16). Giving Negative Feedback Across Cultures. Retrieved from https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/giving-negative-feedback-across-cultures-4259
Petersen, D. (2017, November 27). Carole Robin: Feedback is a Gift. Retrieved from https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/carole-robin-feedback-gift
University of Washington - Mentoring Guides for Students. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://grad.uw.edu/for-students-and-post-docs/core-programs/mentoring/mentoring-guides-for-students/
Vora, T. (2014, May 12). Indispensable Traits of a Collaborative Leader: Part 3. Retrieved from http://qaspire.com/2014/05/11/indispensable-traits-of-a-collaborative-leader-part-3/