# The Best Mentors I’ve ever Had
The best mentors I’ve had were Champions of my Growth.
“They explicitly defined what success looked like and helped me chart a path to achieve it. They sought out growth opportunities for me; complex projects where I could be challenged or opportunities to expose me to new areas of the business. They provided coaching, praise (ie. emotional boosts) and most importantly feedback to correct me along the way. Finally, they inspired me to continuously raise my own bar every day; creating more value for my team and those around me.” – Alberto Picard-Ami
The Goal of this Post
Recently, I’ve been thinking about the mentorship I’ve received and the impact it has had on my personal and professional development. The goal of this post is to break down a simple set of guidelines for effective mentorship… Let’s dig in.
What is Men•tor•ship?
A simple definition provided by our wizard friend:
“Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé).” – Wikipedia
The Value of Mentorship
Great mentorship adds value in both directions. The mentor gains an opportunity to coach and support the mentee, while the mentee gains access to knowledge and advice that can support them in their career growth.
“Mentoring provides a great opportunity to cultivate curiosity and see the world through fresh eyes. When faced with a mentee’s questions, you can start to observe what about your organization is not so obvious to a new person. You might find areas you thought you understood but cannot explain clearly. And you’ll have the opportunity to review the assumptions you’ve collected in your time working that may be worth questioning.” – Camille Fournier
Mentoring interns or new hires serves as a key training opportunity for some of your senior team members who want to gain ‘management’ like responsibilities and experience what a future role as manager might be like.
According to a 1995 study called “Working Wisdom: Timeless Skills and Vanguard Strategies for Learning Organizations”, there are 5 common mentoring techniques.
- Accompanying: taking part in the learning process side-by-side with the mentee; pairing.
- Sowing: preparing mentees for future challenges or situations they may face.
- Catalyzing: exposing the mentee to difficult situations with the goal provoking different ways of thinking or problem solving.
- Showing: modelling the behaviours, process, or actions through explicit demonstration and instruction.
- Harvesting: helping the mentee build awareness and draw conclusions from the learning experiences.
There are different types of mentorship relationships. Each relationship with its distinct set of goals and techniques.
Mentoring an Intern
The goal of mentoring an intern is to provide a learning experience that allows the intern to showcase their abilities; as well as decide if they wish to join your company upon graduation.
This might include:
- Find a small project for the intern to work on. Look for small features, bugs or quick wins.
- Help the mentee breakdown the project into deliverables, and define timelines to complete the work.
- Set expectations. Communicate what you expect from your intern.
- Follow up. Check in to evaluate progress, suggest ways in which he/she can be more effective.
- Coach. Seek opportunities to praise the right behaviours and correct the behaviours you would like to change.
Mentoring an intern is about exposure. You want interns to get a real-enough experience such that it helps your company identify, attract, and retain talented individuals.
Mentoring a New Hire
The goal of mentoring a new hire is to help them through the process of adjusting and integrating within the company.
This might include:
- Developing an understanding of the organizational culture and the company values.
- Rapidly learning the internal processes, techniques and tools used to deliver the work.
- Building a strong network of trusted colleagues and coworkers to share information and ideas with.
- Seeking opportunities to gain insight about your company through fresh eyes.
Mentoring a new hire is about integration. You want them to rapidly become part of the tribe, in sync with the customs and values and become productive (and happy!) members of the team.
The goal of technical mentoring is to share technical expertise and experiences that can help accelerate a mentee’s personal development and enrich their capabilities.
This might include:
- Sharing best practices, anticipating industry trends and new techniques that can be applied at work.
- Coaching, support or guiding a mentee through a hard problem; such as an architecture design, a complex project plan, or building a complex revenue model projection.
- Seeking resources for continued training and development; such as courses, conferences, research papers or projects.
Technical Mentoring is fundamentally about development. Your job is to leverage your past experiences, call out blindspots, identify rooms for improvement and support your mentee in increasing their capacity to deliver their objectives.
The best mentorship relationships are built on understanding, transparency and clear expectations of each other.
As a Mentor:
- Let your mentee know what you expect from him.
- If you want him to prepare material, ask questions, volunteer or take specific initiatives.
- Be explicit about your expectations and time commitment.
As a Mentee:
- Be explicit about what you want to gain from the mentorship relationship and how your mentor can best support you in your career growth.
- Seek opportunities to give back and support them in their own career growth.
- Follow through on your commitments. Show that you value the mentor’s time.
“If you can’t hear the questions you’re being asked, you’ll never be able to provide good answers.” – Camille Fournier
Effective mentorship, similar to management, requires a great deal of interpersonal skills on behalf of the mentor:
- Inspire and Motivate.
- Infuse in your mentee a sense of purpose, a connection with the company’s core values and an opportunity to challenge himself and develop his abilities.
- Listen Carefully.
- Listening is a prerequisite for empathy; being able to understand the mentee’s emotions and feeling what they are going through.
- Communicate Clearly.
- You need to be able to communicate in a way that the mentee understands, even if it may take several attempts to do so.
- Be Curious and Open-Minded.
- Although your goal is to share knowledge and your experience with your mentee; approach the relationship with a beginner’s mindset. Seek to learn as much as you expect to teach.
- Coach. Ask questions.
- Empower your mentee by asking questions to help them explore ideas and alternatives for solving problems and overcoming challenges. Challenge your mentee to dig deep and reflect on lessons learned and opportunities to continue improving and growing professionally.
- Throughout the first few weeks of the relationship, adjust the frequency and dynamics of the interactions as you are building rapport and getting to understand each other.
The Essence of Mentorship
At its core, mentorship is about human connection. It’s about building, understanding, and making real human connections between two individuals seeking to support each other’s growth. It’s a partnership to challenge each other to be better every day and help each other in doing so. Mentorship is about the other.
The best mentors I’ve ever had explained what success looked like; and provided me with challenges and coaching required to achieve it. They inspired me to continuously raise my own bar every day and helped me become the best version of myself.
I want to take this time to appreciate those who have been a part of my personal journey. You know who you are. Thank You.