How to be a Mentor in the Workplace

Once you have gained some experience in a specific career field, you are going to be asked to play a bigger role with junior employees. Words like manager, mentor, coach, leader, and others may be thrown your way. So of these titles must be awarded to you, but no matter where you end up your experience can always make you a good mentor. Investing in another employee has amazing benefits for your team, the employee in question, and your career.

Against your Fight or Flight Instinct

As an older experienced employee, you may feel threatened by new hires with different skills, or just a younger generation becoming more prevalent. Before you start hoarding knowledge or looking for a new job, consider taking the mentor role and helping them be more productive. There is a good chance that if you help them now, they will be more likely to stand-up for you later.

Be open to employees asking you questions about your skills and your experience, you might actually enjoy being able to share your experience. In fact, managers may benefit from a mentorship role in another department. Mentoring promotes higher performance, and a high-performing workforce leads directly to increased achievement of company goals. On a managerial level, statistics show that mentoring can increase managerial productivity by 88% when managers are involved in a corporate mentorship program, as compared to only a 24% increase when managers received only training but no mentorship.

A Mentor is Not a Manager…or a momager

Manager is a term that is just as misunderstood as a late-night-after-party-half-asleep-poor-judgement text. A manager is an given title to those who have the obligation to manage something. These individuals can be, but many times are not, great leaders, coaches or mentors. If you are a manager it may be difficult to take the role as a mentor.

If you are not sure whether you are a manager or mentor, it might be best to make that determination before you confuse your fellow employees even more. Trying to balance the two is possible, but why be marginally good at both when you will benefit colleagues more by being great at one. If your boss calls you a manager, be a manager, if your co-workers call you the gray-haired “mature” one then consider embracing the mentor role. There’s good reason to. In 2006, Sun Microsystems revealed that corporate mentors were promoted six times more often than those not in the corporate mentorship program, while mentees were promoted five times more than their non-mentored counterparts (source).

Speak Less and Listen More

Unlike the previously mentioned manager, as a mentor you don’t always have to say something. You might be surprised what can happen when you serve as a sounding board for workplace growing pains, or just a safe place to verbally process through a tough task. You may have a ton of advice, but choose which pieces you share and when. You may be sought out for advice, but remember they already have a manager telling them what to do. By remembering to listen to those who seek you out, it is possible learn something that you will find beneficial. Your mentee could even be secretly a part of your company’s reverse mentoring program!

Avoid the “CLM”

Mentoring sounds like an easy, relaxed and safe role within your company, but always remember never to commit a “Career Limiting Move.” For a mentee a CLM may be not accepting the offer to have lunch or a happy hour beer with an experienced employee. A CLM for a mentor might include: sharing too much, forgetting to focus on your own growth and challenges, or just giving bad advice that could come back on you. While navigating this two-lane road don’t forget what happens if you cross the line.

The Greater Good

Mentoring can be formal or informal, but it may no longer be solely voluntary. “Corporate mentoring is on the rise and in fact, 71% of Fortune 500 companiesoffer mentoring programs to their employees.” These programs will continue to help the advancement of your employees and your company. The best mentoring can come from your current employees if they are open and engaged with the process. Implementation and participating in all types of mentoring programscan result in the cultivation of skills, insights, collaboration and inevitability employee retention.

If you can’t see how being a mentor can not only be advantageous for you and your co-workers, remember it might actually be enjoyable too. After receiving mentoring from teachers, business leaders, local leaders and of course my incredibly talented parents, I have learned that sharing your experiences is a part of being productive in the workforce. TalentCulture posted a great How To article from practitioner Gareth Cartman, which delineates best practices for setting up an informal mentoring program within your workforce.

Bio: Maren Hogan

Maren Hogan is a community builder and seasoned marketer in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, a full-service marketing and advertising agency serving the HR and Recruiting sectors. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the recruitment and talent space.

You can read more of her work on Marenated.com, HRExaminer.com, Recruiter.com, Inc.com, Forbes, Entrepreneur and the Glassdoor and Peoplefluent blogs. Follow her on twitter @marenhogan — she’s funnier there.

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