According to the 70:20:10 learning model, 20% of knowledge should come from interacting with others. Which isn’t surprising when you consider most executives cite on-the-job experiences, stretch projects and mentors as key elements for developing leadership qualities. These types of interactions that help employees grow can be categorized in two ways: strong mentorship and engaging management.
Unfortunately, mentorship programs can be difficult to set up for success. Leaders within an organization are often the best fit to be mentors structurally, but aren’t necessarily equipped with the skills needed. Start by investing time in building mentoring and coaching skills in your leadership team. Leaders with the opportunity to mentor see greater job satisfaction and a higher commitment to employers.
Your senior leadership team will also:
- Further develop coaching skills
- Gain insight into tactical challenges and wins
- Build relationships with the next round of leadership at the organization
Of course, mentorship also helps employee development. It boosts diversity, pushes employee career paths forward, and opens communication lines across teams.
So, how can mentors set the stage for success? We’ve outlined five recommendations for building an effective relationship with your protégé.
Invest Time Upfront In Getting to Know Each Other
Mentoring relationships don’t need to be strictly career-focused off the bat. Both mentors and protégés get more out of the partnership once they build a genuine relationship.
Kick off the program by asking each pair to get coffee or grab lunch. Suggest non-work-related topics to discuss, like what each employee does for fun, what their passions are outside of work, or what they studied in school.
Learn About The Employee’s World
After breaking the ice, mentors should spend time learning about the employee’s world.
This includes asking questions like:
- What does your day-to-day look like?
- How did you come into your current role?
- What’s your most challenging project right now?
- What is your favorite part of their job?
According to the 70:20:10 learning model, 70% of your time should be spent learning on the job. By understanding a protégé’s 70%, leaders will be better equipped to offer guidance that’s relevant and helpful.
Bring the Employee Into Your World
Effective mentors don’t just listen and coach, they share their world too. Their protégés can then learn more about high-level decisions and how they’re made. Mentors should share challenges as well. Showing that mentors and senior leaders in your organization are human helps the employee relate, and will go a long way toward building a positive relationship.
Introduce protégés to other leaders – within or outside of your organization – that can also provide counsel. Consider people that will strategically broaden their network in ways that will impact their career and goals outside of work. Not only are you introducing the protégé to more world views, mentors can give the employee powerful connections to develop as her career grows.
The goal of a mentor/protégé relationship is to guide and counsel the employee. While it may feel natural to prescribe actions here, refrain from doing so. A mentor’s role is not to dictate how an employee should approach a project or challenge.
Instead, focus on:
- Identifying the employee’s career goals.
- Playing to the employee’s strengths.
- Asking questions that guide her to a resolution.
- Sharing how you’ve handled similar past experiences.
- Talking through the options available, and the potential outcomes.