“Once you stop learning, you start dying.” — Albert Einstein
There’s a disengagement epidemic at work. Numerous Gallup studies show that large portions of our workforce aren’t engaged at work. Although it’s tempting to follow the advice to focus on high performers and forget the rest, the rest could actually be a significant number of employees.
Likewise, disengaged employees are not bad employees. Sometimes, small changes and investments in their development can turn things around almost instantly. We’ve seen this again and again on our mentoring platform.
The impact of effective mentoring
After just one session with a mentor, many employees report new feelings of motivation and excitement for work. Mentors open us up to new perspectives— and this skyrockets engagement.
According to the State of Coaching and Mentorship Report (2022), mentoring and coaching leads to improved organizational performance and individual development – provided it is done well. Mentors need to gain and draw on valuable mentorship skills to help mentees navigate their career growth.
For this reason, we’ve gathered an extensive list of mentoring tips and strategies to increase employee engagement.
What are mentorship skills?
Mentorship skills are the best practices that help leaders nurture, teach, and support their mentees.
More specifically, these skills focus on creating a space of learning and development where the mentor encourages the mentee to set goals, ask questions, and solve problems. They actively listen, provide feedback, and guide their mentee to find their own voice.
Before we unpack the specific skills and strategies, let’s explain why they are so important.
Why are mentorship skills important in leadership?
Now, if all leaders developed these key mentorship qualities — regardless of their industries — they can create a working environment where employees are challenged, productive, and engaged.
Mentorship skills are important in leadership because, through these skills, mentors can:
- Offer and share knowledge
- Improve the skills and development of their mentees
- Boost productivity and team collaboration
- Build strong working relationships
- Nurture high-potential individuals and prep them for promotions and sponsorships.
Additionally, mentorship skills are transferable.
Once you’ve gained them, they can be used in leadership, managing team members, training and onboarding new hires, providing feedback and guidance, and more.
16 Essential mentoring tips and strategies
Having a strategy is essential for a successful mentoring program. Here are the essential tips to build or revamp your workplace mentorships.
1. Use mentoring software
Mentorship can be an overwhelming process, especially if you have to create, run, and monitor the program from scratch. That’s where mentoring software like Together proves most useful. Our software makes it easy to create and run the program from one user-friendly platform. You simply set it up at the beginning, and then it continues to work for you by:
- Reminding employees to register and participate
- Offering agendas and resources for mentoring sessions
- Tracking participation and progress
- Providing analytics and reports
- Collecting feedback, and more.
It cuts down your work of generating these agendas, reports, emails, and feedback. You simply rely on our algorithm to do the work. But if you want a more hands-on approach, the platform is customizable, so you can easily go in and modify it to meet your organization’s needs.
2. Know when to listen and when to give advice
A good mentor will be an active listener.
This involves hearing what is being said and understanding it well enough that you can repeat the thought back using new words. Doing so can help a mentee clarify their own ideas on an issue or problem.
Sometimes people just need a little space to talk out their thoughts before determining their own way forward. A mentor must know when to sit back and listen and when they need to offer some guidance.
3. Set an example worth imitating
One of the reasons that mentorships are attractive to employers is the ability to help newer employees develop good work habits.
To be a good mentor, you need to bring more than a successful career. You should also be an upstanding individual. Mentors that have a strong track record at the company can help mentees establish solid values and work ethic.
4. Set clear expectations and goals at the beginning of the relationship
Setting boundaries at the beginning of mentorship is crucial to cultivating an authentic connection.
Mentors should discuss expectations and goals with their mentees so they can define where the relationship is going.
- Will it be about career development?
- Is the mentee looking to develop a specific skill?
These goals will serve as guides throughout the mentorship.
5. Find common ground with your mentee
Building a connection takes time. It may be awkward in the beginning. But mentors should find something they have in common with their mentees. Use this as a starting point to get to know each other.
6. Know your own strengths and leverage them
A good mentor has a strong understanding of their own strengths. They also know how to play to them.
Use what you know to help bring out the best in your mentee.
7. Be clear with your advice
It’s essential to be direct when you offer your mentee some advice. Don’t rant or waffle with what you’re saying.
Choose your language carefully, so they aren’t confused about your direction. It can also help ask them if they are unclear or have questions about what you’ve said.
8. Expand your mentee's network and open doors where relevant
Getting to know other key individuals is one of the advantages of having a mentor.
As you get to know your mentee, consider people they could connect with in your network. Perhaps there is someone you know that can help take your mentee’s career even further.
9. Hold your mentee accountable
Help your mentee grow by keeping them accountable for doing what they said they would.
Mentorships are about guiding a mentee to reach their goals. They need to do the work of getting themselves there.
10. Be a devil's advocate (with empathy)
Challenge your mentee.
Help them grow by asking them the tough questions. But always do it with sincerity and compassion.
Let them know that you’re not trying to be difficult but rather help them rise to the challenge.
11. Get to know the mentee beyond just work
Building an excellent mentoring connection means knowing more about your mentor than just their job title.
Find out what their interests and hobbies are outside of the office. Ask them about their family and special dates, like anniversaries or birthdays.
12. If you don’t know, say so
Letting your mentee know that you don’t hold all the answers can free you both.
When you come against questions you don’t know, seek an answer together. It will cultivate a stronger connection with your mentee.
13. Look for the root of what’s holding them back
Part of your role as a mentor is to assist your mentee in unlocking their potential.
You’ll need to determine what is holding them back. It could mean you’ll need to dive deep with your mentee to help them find it. Be up for the challenge.
14. Sometimes the best mentoring moments are unscheduled
You don’t need to keep mentoring interactions to your scheduled sessions. If you have an idea, sharing it over email can make a difference.
15. Tell stories
People love to hear stories. Mentors can use this to help teach and instruct mentees.
Talk about times you overcame challenges and reached a goal. You can even share stories of famous mentor-mentee relationships like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs.
16. Above all, be committed to the relationship
How you mentor a mentee depends on your style and personality. But the most important thing you can do is to engage with them.
Be dedicated to the mentoring experience. At the end of the day, if you care, everything else will take care of itself.
Top 10 effective mentoring skills for leaders
So, what do you need to mentor others effectively? Here are 10 crucial mentoring skills that will help mentors provide support and guidance to their mentees and by extension, fulfill the purpose of a mentorship program:
Empathy enables people to understand each other’s perspectives and positions. Hence, a mentor should be able to put themselves in their mentees’ shoes and empathize with their mentorship journey.
Opening your mind this way will help you view different cultural, socio-economic, and personal factors that influence a career path and how to work within these worlds. Through this understanding, individuals can foster stronger relationships and positive growth.
2. Relationship building
Mentorship isn’t a solitary act. A mentoring relationship may start with a leader simply helping an individual learn and train. However, if done correctly, this relationship can grow into a supportive one where both mentor and mentee work off of each other’s experiences and knowledge.
This opens up opportunities for creativity, collective brainstorming, and more, that go beyond the mentoring process. These relationships further help employees expand their professional network and make valuable connections.
3. Constructive feedback
During the coaching process, feedback will often come up. Mentors will need to provide feedback and guidance on how their mentees are performing. And this can be tricky if one does not have the patience to offer feedback in a constructive and positive way.
It is easier to jump in, point out the mistake, and solve the problem yourself. But mentees won’t learn this way. As part of offering constructive feedback, follow these best practices:
- Offer a balance of praise and feedback on how to improve
- Avoid giving negative feedback in the early stages of relationship-building
- Take time to celebrate and unpack wins
- Work together on problem-solving and brainstorming
- Let the mentee take the reins and provide support when needed.
4. Genuine interest
Mentorship will not work if neither party is interested in the process. So, it is crucial that mentors demonstrate interest in the mentees, their goals, and what’s important to them. Pay close attention to what mentees want and need, and support them accordingly. Show that you’re invested in their growth by recognizing and celebrating their achievements and acknowledging their difficulties.
5. Honesty and trust
Since mentorship occurs over a period of time, this relationship needs to be comfortable. Honesty and trust are important to building such a relationship. Oftentimes, mentors and mentees will need to share personal experiences as part of overcoming obstacles to their growth. This means, you’ll need to create an atmosphere of trust, reliability, and openness.
If your mentee cannot trust you, they won’t confide in you. And that can impede the mentorship process and their ability to progress.
6. Clear communication
As with any relationship, you cannot develop a connection without communicating effectively. Clear, open, two-way communication goes a long way in eliminating confusion, misunderstandings, and insecurities. A good mentor knows how to communicate well with their mentee. They help mentees make decisions, work out plans to reach their goals, and provide necessary support as needed.
While talking and discussing can let you in on how your mentee is doing, observing them can provide more insights as well. Watch how they communicate with others or what activities they seem to perform better. Look for moments of doubt or confusion or creative problem-solving.
You can learn a lot from your mentee by simply observing how they operate and then using this information to improve your mentoring relationship.
As this relationship grows, there is a good chance that boundaries will be crossed. It is, therefore, important to remember that this is a workplace relationship and professionalism matters. Remember to separate work and personal relationships and their associated expectations. This means no off-hours communication or non-work-related activities.
9. Active listening and follow-ups
Part of building any valuable relationship is listening to the other person. Be present when communicating with your mentee. Use active listening to generate thoughtful questions, provide feedback, or simply offer empathetic support.
Show your mentee you care and hear them. This will encourage them to put more into their relationship and believe in the purpose of mentorship.
While there may be a certain path to follow with mentorship, you will often need to adjust and modify the process as it goes. Rigidity kills creativity — so, it’s important to be flexible in how you approach certain situations, such as being accessible, trying out different problem-solving activities, updating goals, or experimenting with new ways of teaching. Plus, you’ll be working closely with another person, so you’ll need to be open-minded in your interactions.
Does a mentor have to be older? Different models for mentorship
There are no set rules when it comes to mentorship.
While the traditional mentoring model has been to match a senior mentor with a junior mentee, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a variety of mentoring models that your organization could use depending on the goals of your mentoring program.
Peer-to-peer mentoring capitalizes on the fact that your employees feel comfortable learning from each other. With peer mentoring, co-workers or employees at the same level can be matched up for a mentoring experience. It can be an ideal fit if your mentoring program is designed to onboard new hires.
With a reverse mentoring program, younger or newer employees help train your senior ones. It can be a beneficial mentoring model to help your staff understand new technology. After all, who understands new tech better than the younger generations?
If you have more mentees than mentors, consider a group mentoring model. This allows for one mentor to help guide two or more mentees. It also provides the added benefit of having mentees learn from each other as well as their mentor.
One-on-one mentoring is the traditional model that many of us think of when we hear the word mentoring. Paring a senior employee with a junior one continues to be one of the most popular forms of mentoring because it works.
Beginning a mentoring program in your workplace can be exciting. But it can quickly feel daunting to collect information from potential participants and try to match mentors with mentees.
That’s where mentoring software, like Together, can help. Our platform serves as a one-stop shop for your mentors, mentees, and program manager.
Together provides an excellent user experience without requiring your employees to learn new software.
Our software integrates with email and calendar tools so mentors and mentees can communicate easily and set session dates. We also provide extensive resources and guides to help mentors and mentees build strong relationships.
Mentoring program administrators will easily be able to customize Together’s platform to fit the needs and goals of your organization’s mentoring program. From gathering registrations to pairing to reporting, our mentoring software streamlines the management of the program.
Find out more about Together and how it helps you start and manage your mentoring program. Get a free demo today.