As a manager, you are undoubtedly familiar with your many responsibilities, from leading teams to achieving organizational goals. But what if we told you an additional dimension to your role can bring immense value to you, your team, and your organization?
January is National Mentoring Month, established by Harvard School of Public Health in 2002. This annual campaign acknowledges the profound impact mentoring has on people’s lives and focuses on how we can empower people to unleash their full potential—from developing employees and inspiring college students to supporting youth.
We all need a mentor. At its core, mentoring gives people a guarantee that there is someone who cares about them, assures them that they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter. Research tells us that mentoring has a profound impact, from personal growth to academic and career success. But mentorship isn’t just for those who are green in their careers. Mentoring delivers clear value at many levels for mentees, mentors, supervisors, and their organizations.
This National Mentoring Month, we invite you to explore the world of mentoring from a manager’s perspective. We’ll guide you through the manager’s role as a mentor, and ultimately, how to develop essential mentorship skills that can transform your leadership and influence as a manager.
The Importance of Mentoring in the Workplace
Mentorship is often associated with guiding early-career professionals or students, but it should not stop once someone reaches a certain age or has entered the workforce. Even decades into a career, there’s always room to learn and grow. Professional mentorship is about creating a supportive and nurturing environment where employees can grow and develop—regardless of age or career stage.
While mentorship and management may share some similarities, they are not one in the same—and there’s a time and place for both.
While management primarily focuses on supervising tasks to make sure productivity stays high and employees meet goals, mentorship centers on the personal and professional development of an individual to help them reach their full potential.
Mentorship Programs Are a Win-Win-Win for Managers, Employees, and Organizations
The beauty of mentorship is how mutually beneficial it is for all: the mentee, of course, you as the mentor, and the organization.
Consider these proof points:
- 97% of people with a mentor say they’re valuable.
- Mentorship is ranked the #1 focus area for learning and development programs in 2023.
- 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if offered opportunities to learn and grow.
- Retention rates are much higher for mentees (72%) and mentors (69%) than for employees who did not participate in the mentoring program (49%).
These stats underscore the significance of mentorship all around. It offers mentees the opportunity to gain practical knowledge and insight from a seasoned pro who has achieved a level of expertise they aspire to attain. For mentors, it allows them to expand their repertoire of professional knowledge and skills through their instruction and facilitation of others. And organizations can benefit by further developing and sharing the wealth of talent, skill, and knowledge of their current employees rather than going out to the job market to find the skills they need.
But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention even more of the great benefits from mentorship:
Benefits to the mentee
- Guidance and support from a respected member of campus community
- Professional development opportunities
- Increased confidence
- Increased institutional knowledge and understanding of how the campus works and how things get done
- Greater awareness of other approaches to work
- Builds a network of colleagues and expanded knowledge of different areas of the organization
- Having a confidential sounding board for ideas and challenges
Benefits to the mentor
- Fulfillment and satisfaction of helping others and contributing to the development of colleagues
- Extends network of campus colleagues and builds community
- Supports use and development of key competencies leading to growth
- Encourages examination of the status quo and alternative possibilities
- Encourages renewed ideas and perspectives on one’s leadership role
Benefits to the organization
- Facilitates the growth and development of high-potential leaders
- Demonstrates visible commitment to staff development and continuous learning
- Transfers and maintains institutional knowledge
- Fosters an inclusive, diverse, and collaborative environment
The Dual Role of Manager and Mentor
Being a good manager is about more than supervising tasks and ensuring productivity. It means recognizing the value of investing in your staff’s personal and professional growth.
The most successful leaders will make the effort to invest in their staff’s personal and professional growth—and if you’re reading this article, then that’s a strong signal that you’re likely already a good manager. But there’s always room for growth and one of the most impactful ways to enhance your leadership skills is by stepping into the role of a mentor.
Managers Make the Best Mentors
The best managers are also the best mentors. While an employee might still seek a mentor outside the management structure (which is also a good thing), management and mentorship don’t have to be two separate roles. The best bosses balance both by dedicating time and providing a brave space to help their team members grow and develop. It’s personally fulfilling to both individuals, and the natural byproduct is that you build a great team in the process.
As a manager, you have a wealth of knowledge and experience that can significantly benefit those under your guidance. Your managerial expertise means you understand the intricacies of your organization, its goals, and the skills required to navigate its challenges successfully. This insider knowledge positions you perfectly to guide your team members along their career paths—but it’s also a balancing act.
Balancing the Demands of Mentorship as an Executive Leader Takes Practice and Intentionality
While there are proven benefits to mentorship, it can also feel like a delicate balancing act when you’re juggling this role with significant managerial responsibilities. Holding space for someone else while still making sure you check off your own to-do list requires careful time management and prioritization, as well as respect for boundaries, effective communication, and accountability.
Here are some tips to help you balance your role as a manager and mentor without creating conflicts of interest:
- Define your scope of practice: Clearly define when mentorship sessions occur to prevent them from spilling into your other work. Make sure you and your mentees understand what each role entails, what you can and cannot offer, and how you will communicate and interact. For example, as a manager, you have the authority to assign tasks, evaluate performance, and provide feedback. As a peer mentor, you can share your experience, offer advice, and support your mentees’ growth.
- Draw clear boundaries for your interactions: Create distinct spaces, times, and communication channels for managerial tasks and peer mentoring sessions. For example, you could use formal meetings, emails, and reports for your managerial tasks, and use informal chats, calls, and messages for your peer mentoring sessions. You could also schedule your peer mentoring meetings outside of your regular working hours, or in a different location than your office.
- Be honest and fair: Transparency and fairness are pivotal in managing your dual roles. Maintain honesty, consistency, and respect when interacting with mentees, colleagues, and superiors. For example, you should disclose your dual role to your mentees and explain how it will affect your relationship. You should also avoid favoritism, bias, or discrimination towards your mentees or other employees. Lastly, prioritize seeking feedback from your mentees, your peers, and your managers on how you are performing your role, and how you can improve.
Six Key Traits of a Highly Influential Mentor—and How to Develop These Skills
As a mentor, you get to make a lasting impact on the career and life of your mentee. But being a genuinely great mentor is about more than just having experience in the field.
Research shows that certain qualities are key to fostering growth and change for both mentee and mentor—qualities like a passion for learning, for instance, a commitment to helping others achieve their best, and enthusiasm for the responsibilities that come with the role. You could have all the skills needed to transfer knowledge, but if you don’t have the right attitude, you won’t be able to help your mentee(s) reach their potential.
Other telltale qualities of a great mentor include:
- Active listening skills: Imagine this scenario: a team member approaches you with a challenge they’re facing at work. As a manager, your natural tendency might be to provide immediate solutions or directives. But as a mentor, you take a different approach. You become an exceptional active listener—listening to understand the emotions, concerns, and aspirations behind your mentee’s words. This type of active listening fosters trust and shows your mentee that you genuinely care about their growth and development.
- Patience and empathy: While rewarding, mentoring does require patience. Every mentee will be at a different place in their life and career, facing different obstacles. They may need to hear the same guidance several times before it sticks. Here, patience and empathy come into play. Effective mentors approach these situations with understanding and compassion and recognize that personal and professional growth often involves setbacks and gradual progress. It’s a journey, not a race. As a manager, your focus may often be on efficient outcomes and meeting deadlines. However, as a mentor, you embrace the idea that growth takes time.
- Adaptability: Every mentee is unique, with their own set of needs, learning styles, and goals. Effective mentors understand this and remain adaptable in their approach. They tailor their communication and teaching methods to suit the individual and understand that what works for one person may not work for another.In contrast, managers often adhere to established protocols and procedures. However, mentors are willing to adjust their methods to ensure they meet the specific needs of their mentees.
- Sincere interest in development: As a mentor, you have a sincere interest in your mentee’s development. You are enthusiastic about sharing your knowledge and expertise to help them succeed. While managers are primarily responsible for achieving organizational goals, mentors prioritize the personal and professional growth of their mentees.
- Constructive feedback: When it comes to feedback, mentors have a distinct style. They provide constructive guidance that helps mentees improve without discouraging them. The focus is on identifying strengths and areas for growth, ultimately building the mentee’s self-confidence. In contrast, managers often give feedback with a more directive tone that centers on results and performance.
- In it for the long haul: Effective mentors often engage in long-term relationships with their mentees. They view mentorship as an ongoing commitment and are ready and willing to offer support even as their mentees progress in their careers. Managers, on the other hand, frequently oversee shorter-term projects and tasks.
So, How Do You Become a Stellar Mentor?
Just like any other skill, mentorship isn’t something you become stellar at overnight—it’s a continuous path of growth, learning, and really, like an evolving art form. It deepens and refines with each interaction. The more you practice you get, the more confident and competent you’ll feel when showing up in your role as a mentor.
As a mentor, you’ll learn from your mentees too. They’ll ask questions and bring their unique perspectives to help you grow on a personal and professional level beyond mentorship, too. This process is about collaboration and mutual growth.
So, enjoy this journey. Embrace the unpredictability and the moments of insight. Your mentees will help you become a more perceptive, empathetic, and influential mentor. And remember, mentorship is all about constant growth, for you and them.
Elevate Your Mentorship Skills with Peoplelink’s Support
If you’re ready to take your mentorship skills to the next level, consider partnering with Peoplelink Staffing. We offer mentorship support and a wealth of resources to help you excel in this transformative role. Contact us today and embark on a journey of growth and development as a mentor, manager, and leader.