I remember long ago when I was first I was notified by my manager that I was to attend a meeting with HR to discuss mentoring.
I went in thinking, “Great! I could really use a mentor. I am new here, and this is a big company. A mentor could help me learn about other parts of the company and help me build my network.”
I was stunned in dis-belief when I got to the meeting and realized that they were asking me to BE a mentor.
At this point in my career I had no idea what I had to offer as a mentor. In fact, I was pretty nervous.
You DO have something to offer
So I got assigned my first mentee. I literally had no idea what I was doing, so I asked her some questions about herself and her work, and I shared some stories about things that I did.
I was amazed when she came back and said, “Thank you so much, I did what you said and it really worked!”
I thought, “What did I say?!”
She told me about a story I had shared, and how she implemented an idea from that story. I was fascinated. And lo and behold. I was a good mentor. Even without knowing a thing about mentoring!
You know useful stuff!
The things you already know seem obvious to YOU.
So you don’t think they are valuable or impressive. They don’t seem fascinating or important — precisely because you already know them!
But the things you know are indeed fascinating and important to all the people who don’t know what you know!
You don’t have to know how to be a mentor, you can just start.
No matter where you are in your career you can be a mentor to someone.
There is someone who can benefit from what you know. And they will do better from having the encouragement of someone who thinks them worthy of investing in.
Specific things you say and do as a mentor
1. Just talk. You don’t need an agenda or a plan. There is great magic to be found in unstructured conversation.
2. Ask them, “How did you get here? What happened in your life that resulted in your sitting here now?” They’ll talk about their experiences, their values, their decisions, what they found hard and easy, their roadblocks and their accomplishments.
This will expose a very rich vein of things to talk about and potentially help with.
3. Ask them do define what they want out of the mentoring and how they would like to approach it. I found that some people like to just talk, and others want a lot of structure. If you are not sure how you want to go about being a mentor, ask the person you are mentoring for their thoughts.
4. Say to them, “For our next meeting, think about 2 things that you are struggling with that you don’t feel comfortable asking anyone about. I’ll be happy to talk about those things with you”.
5. Just be generous with listening and look for opportunities to have interesting conversations. You can’t go wrong!
What do you think?
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor.
She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)