How to Mentor


So the company wants you to be a mentor, but you’ve never done it. Or maybe they gave you more direction for it at a previous job.  Now they just threw you in and said “Here’s Bob. Mentor away.”

Where do I start?  What do I teach him/her? What does he/she need to know?

Here are a few tips for getting started:

What I wish I knew then: Think back to your early days in the business.  You had to have a million questions. Or maybe you made a million mistakes early in your career because you didn’t ask the questions and no one told you the right way to do things.

I’m a big proponent of making mistakes.  I don’t know if there’s a better way to learn. So I’d never propose trying to help them avoid making any mistakes.  Fortunately, that’s unlikely.  But after some serious thought, you could probably come up with five or six big mistakes you made that you might be able to share with someone in the younger generation.  Even if they don’t learn anything from it, you both may have a good laugh out of it.

For more information, see How to Mentor for Maximum Benefit

What knowledge do they think they need? Rather than sitting down and telling your new mentee what you think they should know, you could start out asking them what information they’re interested in.  If you start spewing out everything you know about selling services to prospective clients, but they’re more interested in research and development, you will probably end up teaching them a lot of stuff they aren’t interested in.

Soliciting their input is a great way to find out what information they happen to be interested in.

Related post: Mentor is a verb, not a noun

What others suggest they need. This new person may work for you or they may report to someone else in the company.  Either way, after being with your organization for only a few weeks, other people who work directly with this person will begin identifying his or her developmental needs.  People working close with this person, peers in particular, may have a better handle on your mentee’s interests, strengths, and weaknesses.

If you would like to learn more about mentoring between Millennials and Baby Boomers, get Lew and Jeff’s book The Reluctant Mentor on Amazon.

I welcome your comments and criticisms.

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