You may be a pro, but there are many younger and/or less experienced women in your field who aren’t.
The recently hired account manager in your division, for example, executes her responsibilities with consistency and confidence. She appears to work well with others, comes to meetings prepared, and follows through on assignments.
But, she did offend one of the web designers in her first month on the job.
Here is a young creative with the potential to flourish in her chosen profession and fuel your company’s growth, but she is unwittingly making missteps.
Do you remember back to your earlier days on the job? How did you learn? Did you have a mentor who opened doors for you, gave you access to opportunities and contacts that would have taken years for you to develop on your own?
Mentors teach us skills and strategies that we continue to employ throughout our careers, and since you’re one of the lucky women in leadership, it’s time to pay it forward.
Since you’re also pretty busy, we’ve cultivated seven tips for being an effective mentor.
Tip 1: Build Relationships
A good mentoring relationship is, first, a good relationship. Don’t mentor so you can check a box.
Mentorship makes an impact to the degree that there is a good relationship between the mentor and mentee. Seek out someone to mentor with whom you already have a relationship or with someone you’d like to get to know; then, make an offer to mentor — a relationship is two-way.
Demonstrate that you are trustworthy by following through on your commitments. If you can’t review her draft proposal as you promised, admit that you misjudged your time. Demonstrate taking responsibility — even when it means admitting a mistake.
And, lastly, maintain confidentiality. Don’t spread stories from your time together. ‘Nuff said.
Tip 2: Maintain Structure and Boundaries
Establish a meeting schedule, which keeps you both on track and conveys shared commitment to this relationship. You should also model good time management.
Set goals: Does your mentee need deeper understanding of the organization’s content-management system? Does she need to develop presentation skills? Is her communication style with co-workers hampering her growth?
You have the vantage point to look ahead and recognize skill sets or competencies that will advance your mentee. Put that knowledge into action. You are developing an emerging leader.
Establish and maintain healthy boundaries with your mentee. If she starts talking about roommate problems, remind her that your relationship is about professional growth. You’re a mentor, not a friend.
Tip 3: Listen Attentively
When you’re with your mentee, be sure to be tuned in. This means putting your phone away and closing your laptop. Give her your full attention. Honor this young professional and model the type of behavior you expect from her.
Listening attentively also means you don’t jump in to solve problems that your mentee brings into the session. Ask good questions that allow this budding leader to discover solutions on her own. You can remove barriers, when appropriate, provide resources and make necessary connections that can assist the problem solving.
Tip 4: Manage Risks
Growth requires risk-taking, stretching and making mistakes. Allow this emerging leader to experience all of that. Facilitate opportunities that stretch her. When appropriate, position her to take healthy risks, but be there to support and encourage her. She didn’t become a confident snowboarder without a few falls along the way.
However, some risks can damage relationships or put a career in jeopardy. If your mentee is on the edge of potential minefield, step in and guide appropriately. If she makes plans to take an action that puts professional relationships in peril, speak up. Your institutional knowledge is one of your gifts.
Tip 5: Be Honest and Specific
A mentor must be honest, so it’s your duty to tell the truth and be precise about it with instructive praise.
For example, when your mentee delivers an effective presentation, tell her what, in particular, elevated this presentation above the previous one.
On the other hand, when your mentee prepares a sloppy report with inconsistent formatting or missing data, be specific and honest with corrective feedback.
Tip 6: Open Doors, Present Possibilities, Make Connections
As a senior member of your organization, you have access to people, projects and possibilities.
Invite your mentee to join you and another vice president for lunch. If a task force on strategic partnerships is forming, recommend your mentee. Invite your mentee to sit on the next strategic planning session to observe the leadership team’s process.
Networking is important, and you know the people who can get things done. By connecting your mentee with other movers and knowledge-brokers, you build her self-efficacy. As she grows her skills, her reputation advances. She becomes a stronger contributor to your organization and profession.
Tip 7: Encourage, Affirm and Inspire
Don’t forget to encourage and affirm your mentee. You’re nudging, maybe even pushing her to step into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory. She may stumble, and she will make mistakes. Encourage her through difficult times. Affirm her when she wavers.
When you update other VPs on your projects, let them know that your mentee contributed.
Bring your best self to the game. There is no greater gift than inspiring a young, female professional and emerging leader to aspire to heights that benefit women everywhere.