Business Mentoring: 12 Tips to Be a Great Mentor

Posted on
March 15, 2021

Take a minute to remember the best mentor you've ever had. How was your professional experience before and after their support?

Starting a business mentoring program is one of the best decisions you can make. It favors your professional development, and your disciple’s development too. So, we‘re going to analyze what it means to be a great business mentor!

What is the difference between coaching and mentoring?

These two concepts are confusing since both are similar. Coaching focuses more on the development of certain personal habits, attitudes or beliefs; In contrast, business mentoring, as its name implies, is specifically focused on the professional and business field.

Business mentoring is a tool to make employees and business people develop their skills through a person who serves as a guide. Coaching can help anyone change the way they perceive certain situations and how they react to them in daily life.

Different types of mentors

In an article of Harvard Business Review, Anthony K. Tjan, the venture capitalist, wrote about the three types of mentors:

  1. Peer mentor. This type of mentoring is more like a learning program. If someone is entering a new job or is early in their career, this person could benefit from having a peer mentor at the company they work for. It could help you settle into your new job and climb to the top of learning more quickly.
  2. Mentor by profession. Professional mentors have a higher level than their disciples in the same company or where they used to work. Their purpose is to serve as professional advisers and understand how a disciple's contributions fit into their long-term career goals and even the larger picture of company goals. Some companies have career guidance programs in their staff development strategy. This seems to work best when it doesn't become a bureaucratic system, but something more like a voluntary system, where employees freely offer to guide new workers. "It should be something that people know is part of a firm's philosophy," wrote Tjan.
  3. Life mentor. A life mentor is usually someone who isn't physically in the workplace of a disciple. This person can serve as an objective point of view when that person faces difficult career challenges or considers changing jobs. 

12 tips to be a great business mentor at work

With mentoring, everybody grows!

1. Approach each mentorship with a different approach

Rather than classifying the relationship between a mentor and a disciple into categories, the truth is that they are all unique. At first, you must take the time to evaluate your own style and preparation, and think about what kind of commitment you can and want to have. Make yourself some questions:

  • What kind of leadership style do you naturally have or want to have? 
  • What expectations will you set for your style and how will it work best with you?
  • How will you know that your disciple succeeds?
  • How will you communicate what success looks like?
  • How can you segment your experience into phases to get to that point?
  • How will you use the time you will have with your disciple individually?
  • How will you explain your expectations for individual meetings (if applicable) so that the two of you are on the same page?

2. Set expectations together from the beginning

Once you have reflected on the questions in the first tip, both you and your disciple will find it helpful to sit down and discuss expectations; especially if they are just getting to know each other.

For example, let's say a student at your old university sends you an email asking what it's like to work at your company. You are probably wondering if that person wants to work for your business or if they are just curious to know what a company in your industry is like.

Understanding exactly what their motivation is, will help you steer the discussion in the direction most helpful to both of you. However, if your company isn't hiring or you're not comfortable helping that person get a job, then you should set those expectations from the beginning.

3. Have a genuine interest in your disciple as a person

The relationship between a mentor and a disciple is very personal. If you don't really know the person, chances are you'll give them mediocre advice. To become a great mentor, you must first get to know your disciple on a personal level.

You have probably already thought about some questions related to your profession: what is your work style, what is your dream job, what are the objectives of your current job, among others.

But what about the details that make your disciple unique? Getting to know your disciple on a deeper level will help you build a strong relationship and understand who he is as a person, what he likes, what he doesn't like, how he interacts with others and other important issues.

Do you want to know what is a great method to get to know someone? Become an active listener. Easier said than done: this means that you must make an effort to pay attention to what your disciple is saying, rather than thinking about what you’ll say next. 

4. Identify how long to wait before giving advice

When you're mentoring someone, you may feel pressured to give them advice right away, but not all feedback is constructive. Providing useless or unwelcome advice is detrimental to your relationship. A great mentor knows how to determine if a situation is apt to provide comments or to think a little more about what to say. So, a good mentor knows when to press the pause button during a conversation.

5. Improve your emotional intelligence

Being emotionally intelligent is part of being an amazing mentor. When you become someone's mentor, you’ll begin to know their personality, their desires, their needs, the experiences that have shaped them and how they deal with different situations. The best mentors know how to release this information by asking the right questions, reading the disciple's body language, being open-minded, and even recognizing and controlling their own emotions.

6. Ask and don't assume something about your disciple

It's easy to get carried away by stereotypes or not see a situation from someone else's perspective. This is why great mentors recognize that it’s their responsibility to go beyond common assumptions when asking questions and digging into certain issues.

This is particularly effective if you’re mentoring someone who is in the early stage of their professional career or if the two of you are just getting to know each other and aren't sure how transparent they should be.

For example, let's say you're mentoring someone who is having trouble talking to their boss. Instead of commenting on a story about one of your experiences in which you had communication problems with one of your superiors, ask the disciple questions that will bring up the important details of his problem.

Ask questions about her relationship with her boss, and don't assume you understand her work style just from her conversations, as she probably works and communicates differently with her boss.

Only when you have learned the bottom of a problem is when you should share useful and relevant comments, without making decisions for your disciple. 

7. Be honest about the mistakes you have made

Being willing to share your own mistakes and failures is one of the best gifts you can have as a mentor. This is not only useful information for solving a problem, but it also helps to improve trust with the disciple, gives her permission to share her own mistakes, and strengthens the relationship in general.

8. Celebrate their achievements

Because people often seek or turn to a mentor to help them with difficult situations, many counseling conversations revolve around the negatives. When you take the time to highlight and even celebrate your disciple's successes and accomplishments, you don't just balance the mood of those conversations; You also increase your disciple's confidence, reinforce good behavior, and keep him focused and motivated. 

Selecting a strategy to celebrate her accomplishments is up to you. For example, if you’re mentoring a colleague to join his new job, you can choose to acknowledge her achievement by sharing his success story with the whole team.

9. Give more than expected

It’s very common to remember those mentors who went out of their way to meet us for coffee, who gave us feedback on some of our job choices, or who directed us where to obtain resources. The best mentors often offer their time and wisdom for nothing in return to positively influence their disciples' careers.

Most disciples have less to offer because they are younger and less experienced. It is difficult to ask for help if you feel like you are a burden to someone else. Giving advice or helping others (and making it clear that you are doing it for pleasure) goes a long way to alleviate those anxieties.

10. Look for projects related to the skills that your disciple wants to develop

Great business mentors look for situations in which their disciples can engage to learn the skills they want to master. It doesn't matter how much experience you have in the industry your disciple works in or wants to work in; you can provide helpful resources to help you be successful. Take note of the areas in which your disciple wants to grow and always look for opportunities to guide him in the right direction. 

11. Solve long-term problems

Work with your disciple as if you were to be their mentor forever. That mindset will make it easier for you to provide long-term guidance and help him make decisions that go beyond the guidance he has with you.

This is particularly important if they work at the same company because it will help you make a bigger impact on your company.

12. Lead by example

Last but not least, be a positive influence. Your disciple can learn a lot about you by observing your behavior. Select information about your ethics, values ​​and standards; styles, beliefs and attitudes. He’s more likely to follow your example. As a mentor, be aware of your behavior. Ultimately, the more you work as a mentor, the more you will learn about your disciples: their communication style, how they process feedback, and how they seek to achieve their goals. At the same time, you will learn a lot about yourself.

To make a long story short… Being a mentor is rewarding!

Mentoring students and professionals is just a rewarding experience and not only for you but also for your disciples. The best mentors recognize that true leadership is a service to others and that the best way to inspire commitment is by committing to the best interests of your disciples. 

Similarly, good mentors don't cancel out their disciples' dreams and aspirations; on the contrary, they help them realize them even if it means changing companies. That big is the challenge of mentorship.

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