A few years ago I had the chance to interview some of our Minnesota State leaders about mentoring and executive development. Almost without exception, they believed that being an effective mentor was an essential skill for leaders in higher education. Whether it’s a high-potential employee, a new colleague, or a student, we often find ourselves in a position to provide advice and expertise to encourage another’s growth and development.
The role of a mentor is to ask good questions of mentees – then listen actively to what they have to say. You may be able to share your experiences and insights to help them see new perspectives. Other times, you can act as a sounding board.
Here are some good tips on building and sustaining a mentoring relationship.
- Set aside time for regular meetings. Even in informal situations, treat the relationship professionally by giving it the time and attention it deserves.
- Be honest and open. Agree on your mutual expectations for the relationship, and create a climate where you can discuss mistakes as well as success.
- Provide feedback in a way that will be helpful and welcome, and offer advice only when it is requested.
- Provide opportunities for learning, not quick fixes.
- Take a genuine interest in the other person.
I’ve learned that mentors learn as much from the experience as the mentees. Developing strong mentoring relationships can be rewarding both personally and professionally.
What tips do you have for effective mentoring?
Dee Anne Bonebright