Mentoring 101 | The bar

I’ve had the privilege of always having a mentor of some sort – different personalities corresponding to different stages of my career.

As I grew older, I had the same privilege of being able to mentor others and take pride in watching their journeys and successes unfold.

It was an honor to be named Mentor of the Year at Law.com’s Women, Influence and Power in Law Awards 2021 in UK.

The importance of mentorship

There isn’t just one way to climb a cliff, so everyone’s experience climbing it – and their view of the post on the ground – will be different and may or may not seem relevant to those in the middle. travel.

That said, the lessons learned from having climbed it – or for peer mentors, climbing it – can still offer others a valuable new focus to help others on their own path.

For me, this is the key to mentoring.

It’s not about using your own experience to tell others what to do.

It’s about using your experience to ask the right questions and help others gain perspective on their own position and make informed decisions about what they need to do to pursue their goals.

Potential results

My proudest moment as a mentor is always the same – when I’ve been talking to a mentee about a number of thoughts/concerns for a while, and there’s that moment when you can see that they gained in objective clarity.

They know what a third party (like an employer) expects of them. They know what they want for themselves. And they are able to clearly analyze whether these two channels align. This opens up a whole new level of discussion – and action points.

If the channels align, this is highly motivating and tends to strengthen the mentees’ commitment to an organization and allows them to think about the actual steps they need to take to realize the path they are on the right path.

If not, then one must ask whether it “can” ever align, and what steps are needed to create that alignment. This tends to give mentees a sense of ownership and control.

They can “get back on track” or, if they don’t want to, what other short-term steps should they take to achieve their long-term goals.

Benefits for mentors

It makes me a better, more diverse manager. My goal is based on my own path. By default, it’s easier to deal with people “like me”, partly because it’s easier/safer to know how they might react to me or my style.

The more people I manage, the more I know about people who are not “like me”, how they interpret certain situations and feel able to respond to different management styles.

With this knowledge, I am able to better assess my subordinates, try to determine their needs and the type of style that can best help them thrive – which is, ultimately, my main goal. as a manager, helping others to perform at their best for the good of the team.

How to approach a mentor

Be authentic and organic.

Consider the purpose of mentorship: to find someone with whom a person can speak candidly and receive feedback about their organization or situation to help guide their own thinking.

The best approaches aren’t forced, wooden, or out of the blue.

Ask your target mentor if you can book in 15-20 minutes just for an (introductory) coffee. Ask if you can go back for a follow-up coffee in a few months. Go from there, on a fairly regular basis (such as quarterly).

Advice for mentees

Your chat shouldn’t become a whining fest!

Your mentor is there to give you objectivity and help you understand how you feel about certain situations and what you need to get what you want.

So be open, be thorough with the context (especially your own perception of your needs and wants, which you should be willing to test).

If you see your path as a decision tree, use your mentor to bounce around the different options and play the decision tree through a few more steps.

Mentors can help you challenge your own assumptions, especially about the longer-term realities of your short-term choices.

Tips for mentors

Listen. Ask several open-ended questions.

Stress test and challenge if necessary – especially if you think mentees need to recognize their own role/actions in the situation.

Help mentees develop clear and focused next steps, including an idea of ​​the communications they need to have with other stakeholders for their career.

Overall, the benefits of mentoring for everyone – mentors and mentees alike – are significant. The more we can instill these practices as common ground across the profession, the better it is for all of us.