This week has been Father’s Day. Since my father passed away two years ago, I have realized the importance of having him as a mentor and how important he has been in defining how I am (even physically) and some of the things I like: music, books, history, art, economy and so. My music tastes became eclectic thanks to my dad, who used to listen from classic American rock to Spanish folk. He had a great collection of discs, live acts, books… and I have always been, plenty of curiosity, digging in them.
The role of a mentor is to prepare the mentee to tackle future challenges with his or her brain. My parents have been great mentors and team builders, and I have learnt great lessons from them. Work experience made me come up with some other tips about mentoring. Now I see mentoring as crucial to business success. I hope my ideas are useful for any reader.
8 TIPS TO BE A GREAT MENTOR
- LET PEOPLE BE THEMSELVES
In business and in life, you can’t pretend to be anything different than what you are. Each one of us has great aptitudes and skills and maybe you even don’t know that you have. The role of a mentor should be to help others to discover that skills that they have naturally acquired (by learning, working…) and exploit them. Or discover things that can help them to be more creative and do a better job.
Sometimes, mentors don’t have to have a close relationship with you. Neither meet you personally. I started this blog because I was enrolled in a MOOC course, and after answering a question, other of the students asked me if I had a blog. I thought: “Not seriously, but maybe I should”.
2. LISTEN TO EACH OTHER IN YOUR TEAM
Listening to others is crucial in your business life. Sometimes a casual comment can push the button in your brain for a great idea. Try to push that button in other’s brain. Grow your team as leaders and idea generators.
This is what bands are doing all the time. And when I say bands, I mean music groups, soloists and all their team (Managers, Marketers…). They’re trying to compose another great song, to create another great product, to cultivate a fan base.
3. ASK QUESTIONS. DON’T GIVE ANSWERS
This is one of the most difficult things to do. I have been breed in a family where it has been used as a teaching tool. My father very rarely gave me a direct answer to a question. He used to ask me questions. Believe me, it’s a great method to define your ideas and grow them bigger. You can even do it by yourself: write your idea in a piece of paper and write questions as if it were anyone else’s ideas. Then answer them.
Much great songs do this. They don’t give a direct answer. They don’t tell you what you should do. Lyrics can be even understood in different ways. What is about Lou Reed’s song “Perfect Day”? A song about love? A song about getting high?
Blurred ideas are potentially more interesting than clear ones. Define that ideas. Work in them.
4. LISTEN WELL
We all have the capacity of listening, but do you have the ability of listening? I mean, listening carefully. Being capable of putting yourself in another’s shoes.
What to do? Ask questions. Get information before making recommendations. Think that the questions you are asking should led others through the choices to their course of action.
5. GUIDE, DON’T DO
Mentoring means empowering people to assume their own risks. A mentor has to guide and inspire. Recommend the people you’re mentoring to contact someone, read a book, visit an exhibition or change a course of action. But don’t assume the responsibility of doing it by yourself. Taking risks and learning lessons from those decisions is how I have learnt the most important lessons.
6. MEET YOUR CLOSER TEAM INDIVIDUALLY
This is something that I think is very important. We all have needs, concerns and ideas coming out from our point of view or the level of info that we have. These ideas should be listened. I encourage you and your team to discuss that needs and concerns. To be very much more time effective, encourage them to send you their agenda (not a formal agenda, just an email with ideas, problems…), so you all can think how to fix them.
7. FOCUS ON ACTION
Help people to focus on the action to follow the plan they have decided, and how soon they’re starting that plan. And encourage the to follow that plan. Group pressure is a great way to keep your path. There’s an expression is Spanish which is something as “Starting to run as a horse, stopping as a donkey”. It is something I do often: stop at the middle of a course of action. But having others reminding you what your objectives are, helps you to focus keeping on.
8. PROMOTE MENTORING
Everyone can become a mentor of others and empower them. You just need to give people the tools to mentor others.
As I said before, I was privileged by having great mentors around. And I still try to look for mentoring, asking people who is much more experienced that I am for their opinion. Thank you to all of them.