As many of you may know I am currently working with the Cherie Blair Foundation as a mentor. One of my fellow mentors, Jenny, shared five of her recommendations for mentors with us.
– “Get down and dirty – you can’t mentor from a distance, you have to get your hands dirty and understand the nitty gritty of what your mentee does”.
Well that sounds like pretty logical advice to me! The Cherie Blair Foundation mentors and mentees are based literally all over the world and I have yet to come across a mentor mentoring a mentee in their own neck of the woods. I was matched up to a young lady who originally comes from Kenya, but who now lives Rwanda. Sure we can’t get ‘up close and personal’ to one another and we rely on SKYPE for our two weekly chats, but the point is that I know exactly what her business is about, what her ‘crisis’ areas are, what her challenges are and how she is or isn’t coping. It’s all about communication and sharing – her sharing with me and me sharing with her. I mean really, how could I possibly give someone business advice if I didn’t know the very basics about what business they are in.
– “Open doors – use your connections and your networks to open doors for your mentee.”
The whole idea behind mentoring is about sharing experience and advice and so for me, sharing connections (obviously where appropriate) is also what is called for. Not only will it benefit your mentee but it will also add value to the person whose details you share. Networking is a basic resource for any business.
– “Don’t let your mentee off the hook, keep them focused and on track to act.”
Oh thank goodness for this one! I have had several requests from clients as well as colleagues for me to mentor them. They are really keen to get all the information and experience from me until I tell them that I want a written agenda at least 48 hours before the meeting, that they have to take minutes which must also be given to me prior to the next meeting and that all actions that they have agreed to must have a ‘due by’ date and that those deadlines have to be met. Remember the whole ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’ thing – clearly this applies to mentoring as well.
– “Meet regularly – weekly or bi-monthly to keep the momentum going, the sessions can be short and sweet”
You really cannot monitor what your mentee is doing or give them the correct guidance if you are not communicating on a regular basis. I have found that 20 to 30 minutes every two weeks is more than sufficient once you get going. The initial meeting(s) will be a bit longer but then that is because you are getting to know one another and to understand the needs of each other.
– “Be prepared to learn as much as your mentee does”.
This one quite honestly I was not prepared for and one that has had the most impact on my life. Be prepared to listen, carefully – I did and I am so glad that I did. I have learnt a huge lesson from my mentee and it’s not one that I will forget!
And a final word from me, give your mentee room to grow – don’t give them everything on a platter – steer them in the right direction, but make them think for themselves, often they will come up with their own solution. This will strengthen their ability to problem solve and ensure that they do not become reliant on you for every decision that they need to make.