Successful Mentoring Tips from Both Sides of The Table - Part 1


Part 1 of this blog post focuses on how a mentor can successfully encourage and advise mentees toward success. PART 2 — POSTED NEXT WEEK — OUTLINES the role of the mentee in the relationship.

Turnover in the nonprofit industry is estimated at about 20%. That means there’s a good chance as many as one in five of your front-line employees are new to their job, new to your organization, or new to the industry entirely.

One of your most critical management assignments then, is to ensure these individuals have the skills and understanding they need to do their job well. This, at least in part, will depend on effective mentoring.

In my experience, it seems there are a few key qualities that are essential to a successful mentoring relationship.

From the Mentor’s Perspective

  • Initiative. As a manager, you need to get to know the individual, their perceived strengths and weaknesses, dreams and aspirations, as well as their fears and limitations. We tend to think of initiative as taking action; in this case, active listening should be one of your first steps.

  • Sense of direction. Have you defined the job requirements and organizational goals? It’s going to be tough to determine the most appropriate path to needed skills if you haven’t.

  • Flexibility. At the same time, it’s not simply a matter of a one-size-fits-all directive. Guide as the opportunity presents itself, as much as possible adapting your “lessons” to the learner’s style and personality.

  • Humility. Leadership is often not about having the right answers, but asking the right questions. You can “show the way,” but with the understanding this is your way. Your goal is to help this individual find the way that’s best for them.

  • Openness. Be willing to share your experiences, good and bad. What are the lessons you’ve learned? How did you learn them? What difference has that made for you?

  • Honesty. Be genuine. Sure, there’s a “company line” you want to convey – established practices and procedures, culture and tradition. But it’s in how that company line is personified that it becomes real. You can describe this, but you’ll be even more effective when you demonstrate it … in a manner that’s real and personal to and for you.

  • Positive. While some managers think their primary role is to correct and keep in line, I’d argue that as a mentor, one of your primary roles is that of cheerleader. How can you affirm growth as it happens and inspire it to continue?

A successful mentoring relationship is a two-way street, depending as much on the qualities of the mentee as the mentor. Not surprisingly, these are two sides to this same coin. Next week’s post explores helpful ideas for mentees to keep in mind.