Formal mentoring in the workplace is being adopted by an increasing number of businesses to boost competency, morale and employee retention.
History of Mentorship
The concept of Mentoring has been around since the ancient Greeks. The practice is named for Mentor, who was the trusted guide and counsellor of the fabled hero Odysseus. He was also the guide and teacher for Odysseus’s son while Odysseus was off fighting battles.
Many of us can point to a special teacher, coach or friend whose attention and influence made a difference in our lives. While mentors in the workplace share some of the characteristics of mentors in other areas of our lives, they also have specialised knowledge and actions that set them apart from other types of mentors.
What it Takes to Be a Good Mentor
As leader you are well positioned to become a mentor but you do need to possess specific skills to be truly exceptional.
While many leaders may exhibit a high degree of competency in an organisation, not everyone is cut out to be a mentor. A good mentor is not only efficient and exceptional at their own job, but is also someone who has a passion for sharing knowledge, has a great deal of patience, and is willing to invest time and energy in helping others without expectation of a reward.
A good mentor is also someone that the employee feels that they can trust. The protégé must feel as though they can turn to their mentor with questions without the fear of reprisals or ridicule.
We know that people blossom when someone takes an active interest in them and their development. Genuine interest from you as leader and an approach based on that person’s specific strengths, talents and weaknesses, will also increase a protégé’s ability to learn specific tasks and model appropriate cultural behaviour within the organisation.
Providing feedback on a regular basis, and praising and even rewarding accomplishments is another way to reinforce what you wish your protégé to learn, and is the hallmark of a good mentor.
In addition to teaching the specifics of the job, you can guide your protégé on the specific etiquette and best business practices expected in your team or organisation. Let’s not underestimate the importance of business etiquette – it’s often what makes or breaks a team or a career. It’s also the secret that existing team members may keep secret if they feel threatened by a new arrival.
When you take on the role of mentor you are also making yourself responsible for balancing the relationship with your protégé with the relationship with your team. That’s an aspect of the role that is not often discussed but which is important to maintain the smooth running of your team.
Learning More about Mentorship and Coaching
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Sonia McDonald believes we should lead with kindness, from the heart, doing rather than telling and is known for her mantra ‘Just lead’. She leads by example in all these areas and through her one on one practical coaching, leadership training for teams and organisations encourages others to do the same. Sonia has helped hundreds of people on their leadership journey to become the best version of themselves and in turn, inspire and bring out the best in others.
For more than 25 years, Sonia has been on the front lines of HR. She has held leadership positions worldwide and through experience, research and study come to realise what it takes to be a truly great leader.
Sonia has an ability to speak bravely and authentically about her own development as a leader, personal and career challenges in a way which resonates with her audience. She is recognised as a LinkedIn influencer and has become an in-demand keynote speaker, starts important conversations.
She is an award-winning published author and writes regularly for publications such as The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. Sonia has become recognised for her commentary around the topic of leadership, developing work-life balance, championing the up and coming leaders of tomorrow and advocating for women in business and male-dominated industries.
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