Part of becoming a great leader is being influential in the organization and creating an environment where others can maximize their efforts and reach their goals. Therefore, one powerful way to develop your leadership skills is to mentor team members and others.
Mentoring provides individuals the opportunity to discover hidden talents, expand on current abilities, and identify knowledge and skill gaps they can work on to achieve their full potential. Indeed, fully 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs because these benefits are well understood.
Below, we discuss the tips and strategies for leadership development as a result of mentoring others. We aim to explore how anyone, including the mentor, can leverage mentoring relationships to improve on and develop their leadership skills.
Why Is Mentorship Important in Leadership?
Mentorship plays a critical role in elevating employee performance. Being a mentor also offers leaders the chance to grow and develop in their own roles. Here are some of the direct benefits of mentoring to leaders:
Gain a sense of fulfillment: While it may seem as though mentoring primarily benefits the individuals being mentored, we believe that mentors typically gain just as much from the mentoring process. Great leaders have the desire to share knowledge, expertise, and lessons learned throughout their careers with other members of the organization. Leaders who are willing to mentor others get to observe team-member growth and success firsthand.
Improve their job performance: Mentoring brings out the best in people. Mentors can share their years of expertise and experience, which serves as a great confidence-booster and allows leaders to gain conscious awareness of what they have learned and experienced in their careers. As a result, leaders may feel more driven to give more of themselves to the process and achieve positive outcomes for themselves, their mentees, and the organization.
Learn and apply different leadership styles: Daniel Goleman, an expert on emotional intelligence, explains there is not one type of leadership style that reigns over all others. Rather, the leadership style that is best depends on the requirements of the situation and individuals involved. Leaders who are able and willing to adapt their style so it aligns with the unique needs of each new situation become the most respected and trusted individuals in a company. Mentoring gives leaders the chance to improve on their established approach to leadership and develop new leadership techniques as they work with different personalities, styles, and skillsets.
Create strong relationships: Mentoring creates a bond and closeness that is difficult to achieve in many other types of business relationships. When the leader in the mentoring process is fully accountable and committed to the mentee, it fosters a stronger partnership and greater loyalty between both parties. Additionally, demonstrated commitment to the mentoring process by the leader ensures higher trust, leading to discussions that are more open and giving mentees the confidence they need to apply the mentor’s advice and counsel.
Receive a pay raise: 25 percent of employees who participate in a mentorship program receive a salary increase, compared to just five percent of individuals who do not take part in this type of program. As you think about your role as a leader, one important factor to consider is talent development and retention. Mentoring can act as a secret weapon in increasing retention, solidifying team-member loyalty, and improving results.
What Makes a Successful Mentor?
Not all mentors are created equal. The best mentors exhibit the following qualities:
Find value in helping others thrive. Successful mentors are driven by helping others. They enjoy sharing insights and guidance to help team members amplify their employee experience, leverage their strengths, and work on their weaknesses.
Possess highly effective communication skills. Great mentors inspire others through a pattern and practice of open dialogue. Leaders working in a mentoring capacity are nimble and adjust their communication styles and methods according to the personalities of the people they mentor. Moreover, leaders take time to get to know their mentee’s wants and needs to better serve them throughout the mentoring process.
Provide mentees with challenges. Meaningful challenges provide mentees the opportunity to step outside of their comfort zones and improve upon their weaknesses. A good mentor understands the types of goals, projects, tasks, and desired outcomes the mentee should pursue. Successful mentors challenge mentees; they buck the trends we see in some mentoring relationships, where both sides play it safe and are not as emotionally invested or focused on stretch and reach capacity.
Possess emotional intelligence (EQ): Emotional intelligence is what ultimately sets effective leaders apart. Great mentors have the capacity to be aware of, control, and express their emotions appropriately. Mentoring requires self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. The different facets of emotional intelligence are demonstrated by leader-mentors when they reflect both inward and outward. Leaders who exhibit behavioral understanding and insight influence others much more effectively than those who do not self-reflect or have emotional self-discipline. The emotionally intelligent leader makes the necessary adjustments to help others achieve greater potential and improved results.
3 Tips for Your Mentoring Strategy
It can be difficult to assess whether you’re on the right track in your mentoring journey. Here are three key tips to help steer you in the right direction and motivate you to work on your leadership skills:
1. Identify Desired Outcomes
Effective mentoring begins with establishing the goals and outcomes that each person would like to achieve. Establish and track your mentoring goals by:
- Asking specific questions and sharing your goals. Gain the clarity you need by asking questions of the person you mentor. Here are some questions to consider:
- What do they want to achieve?
- What do they want to improve on?
- What are they struggling with?
- How would they like to be held accountable?
Asking questions will encourage open dialogue and lay the foundation for mutual understanding. As the mentor, you are better able to meet those needs and share your desired goals and outcomes for the mentoring process. Each side gains clarity of purpose and a sense of ownership and involvement in the mentoring process.
- Establishing metrics. With your mentee, create goals that include relevant metrics or milestones. Metrics should not only measure the success of your mentoring process but also encourage you and your mentee to stay accountable for your goals.
For example, if your mentee wants to improve their presentation skills, you can assign them a goal to create and deliver a presentation, complete with deadlines and milestones such as conducting research, preparing materials, developing the slide deck, and setting time aside to rehearse.
A few metrics that can be used to indicate whether this mentoring strategy is successful can be engagement and effectiveness via surveys/feedback from the audience upon your mentee’s delivery of the presentation.
2. Get Feedback from Your Mentee
We suggested earlier that one of the keys to effective leadership is emotional intelligence and, more specifically, self-awareness. Self-awareness involves understanding your strengths and weaknesses and adjusting your behaviors in a way that benefits your mentee. You can elevate your leadership skills proactively throughout the mentoring process by creating the conditions for receiving feedback from your mentee.
Periodically speaking with your mentee to gain their perspective, thoughts, and concerns about your mentoring approach and style can be extremely helpful in finding ways to fine tune your leadership skills. Great leaders are coachable, so it is the responsibility of the mentor to ask for feedback, listen to the feedback, and act on it when and where appropriate. Being open to feedback will make you a more approachable leader.
3. Share Your Results
When appropriate, it’s important to share your mentoring experiences and successes. Most organizations need to understand the impact of successful mentoring. In most cases, leadership teams and colleagues want to see tangible metrics, such as the impact of your mentoring strategy on employee-related outcomes (e.g., engagement and retention) as well as qualitative results (e.g., personal progress from your mentees who are willing to share their experiences).
Sharing the impact and results gained from mentoring will not only allow you to teach your colleagues about effective mentoring strategies, it will also provide the chance to exchange ideas and gain greater insights into the leadership qualities and characteristics that are most impactful to your business.
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