Written by: Karen Fischbach – Pro Leaders Academy Pty Ltd
Mentoring and guiding play a crucial role in staff development and long-term retention. This is because mentors are usually members of the organisation and are therefore in place for the long haul. I say usually because anyone with willingness and potential can be a mentor.
To be a good mentor requires a level of knowledge, professional skills and interpersonal skills. However, there is also a confidence and an attitude that shows an understanding of the benefits of sharing knowledge and up-skilling team members. For example, it will likely produce a higher performing team, invite ideas, personal growth and enable team flexibility (for when the inevitable goal posts change). Other benefits include reducing issues during leave, retaining staff and enabling the organization’s assets (people) to move through the ranks in a career path if they choose.
But what does it really take to be a mentor?
Well, most mentors I have known have their own mentor; especially those at executive levels. Often these “executive mentors” are not staff of their own organisations. In addition to this, a support network is needed for mentors to seek confirmation, strategies or advice at their level or in their specialist field. This is a sign of a senior manager who want sot continue to evolve themselves, which transfers to how they lead their teams.
Note that interpersonal skills include being able to convey messages and details about workplace requirements, being patient and making staff mentoring a priority within the workload (another attitude that speaks to staff about the mentor’s commitment to staff). Flexibility in the way you ask questions to different staff and your knowledge of them and work habits will both lead to trust, and that is a key component for engaging with staff in the first place.
This is a two-way relationship and staff must trust you enough to accept your guidance and listen to what you are trying to guide them in. This enables the mentor to stretch or challenge people to be the best they can be.
Mentoring has no borders or industry boundaries and can support teams from farming to corporate officers, to the defence forces or the mining industry.
Mentoring is a role that is all about people, so if you are a “people person”, then this role may be right for you.
What do you get out of it though?
It is personally rewarding from the perspective of evolving a team, but also from the perspective of achieving outcomes, which always looks good for the mentor or leader. In addition to this, your teams adapt to the group culture and the mentor’s way of doing things and that makes it easy for any one of the team or the mentor to step in when the situation requires it. You now have a more adaptable team, and in this changing world – that may put you at a distinct advantage in the organisation. Mentors also benefit from learning about themselves and this also helps to evolve and grow their own skills.
Often mentoring is an unwritten duty in a role, but paying it forward is one way of giving back the time support and effort that was given to you.