I’ve had mentors that have taken me under their wing and began giving me advice without my seeking it out. I had mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I appreciated that fact that they took the interest in helping me out and sacrificed their valuable time to help me improve.
On the other hand, I thought they might have ulterior motives. Maybe they want to mold me into a certain type of person for political purposes. Or perhaps they just liked the ego trip of letting someone hear about all that they knew.
Question to ask when mentoring strategically
Even if their intentions were strictly to help a young guy out, they didn’t seem to have a strategy for mentoring me. They simply drove the conversation based their own interests and knowledge base.
As I progressed through my career, I learned that there are three questions a mentor should ask himself in order to mentor strategically.
What does the mentee want to know?
You may think it is important to sit down and tell this young novice all about the accounting system that you know so deeply. But if she is more interested in a career in marketing or sales, the accounting information may be both useless and boring to her.
When starting any type of mentoring relationship, a mentor should spend some time letting the mentee talk. Ask the mentee questions regarding their goals. Where do they want to be in three, five, even ten years? If they aren’t sure, ask them about their interests. What are they passionate about? Why did they come to work at this company?
Learning about their interests can give the mentor valuable information on what direction to go with advice to a mentee.
For more information, check out How to Mentor for Maximum Benefit
Additionally, it is helpful to ask the mentee about his or her perceived weaknesses. What areas do you think you’re weak in, or at least, would like to develop? This may not be their passion, but an area that they know they need to develop in order to develop their passion.
What does the mentee need to know?
Rather than providing random “this is what I know” type of advice, interact with the mentee to determine gaps he or she needs to fill. You may have a lot of knowledge, but if you just spew out your knowledge without regard for the mentee’s needs, you could be wasting your time teaching them unnecessary information.
One way to determine what they need to know is to speak with people who have worked with them. Speaking to both managers and peers can give different perspectives about skills the mentee needs to develop.
Once you determine the skills other people think he or she needs to develop, talk it over with the mentee. This may be information they aren’t interested in. If their former manager thinks your mentee should learn about the accounting system, and she isn’t interested in learning it, you may need to explain that, in order to develop in an area in which she is passionate, learning the accounting system would be a big help.
What can the mentee teach you?
What? You want me to let the mentee be the mentor? What could he possibly teach me? When I was that age, I didn’t know anything. I relied on my mentors and experience to gain knowledge.
Probably so. You had some raw knowledge from your college classes, but didn’t really “know” anything. This is an entirely new generation of people. The people generally known as Millennials or Generation Y grew up with technology. Most of them do not remember a time when there were no mobile phones or an internet.
Related post: What My Gen-Y Kids Taught Me about Curiosity
As a result, they have a comfort level with technology that makes learning about it intuitive. They can download a new app to their smartphone and begin using it with very little learning curve.
They can not only teach their more mature counterparts about how to use new technology, they can help them figure out ways to apply it to solve business problems.
Good mentoring should be more than just transferring knowledge. By asking these three questions, a mentor can begin mentoring strategically, making sure the mentee is learning what he wants to learn and what he needs to learn. Additionally, the mentee can share his knowledge with you, enhancing the relationship from both ends.
Are you mentoring strategically when you mentor others?
I welcome your questions and comments.