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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: Mentoring and leadership

In my experience, there is no better way to support and nurture your work team than through mentoring. And mentoring is not just for new hires or people switching roles within the organization; it’s helpful for anyone who is looking to learn a new skill, change roles, or climb the ladder.

There really is no substitution for working with a mentor.

Mentors can offer:

  • Personalized guidance
  • A roadmap for obtaining a new position
  • Lived experience and real-life lessons
  • A bridge to other resources
  • A chance to expand a person’s network

I’ve written about mentoring benefits in a few past blog posts, but today I want to talk about something slightly different: starting a mentoring cohort.

What is a mentoring cohort?

Companies can approach mentoring cohorts differently, but in essence, they are groups of people who are moving through a mentoring program together. That might sound formal, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Typically, each mentee will be assigned a mentor, who will work with them for a certain period of time (3 months, perhaps, or 6 months).

The mentees might occasionally meet up and offer each other support, as well. This often makes sense if the mentees are new in the organization and could use the same type of support or resources. Typically, the mentors have been with the organization for at least a few years and are well-respected and knowledgeable.

How do you start a mentoring cohort?

First, it’s helpful to identify the mentees’ needs. Are they interested in learning more about the organization, in general? Do they have their sights set on leadership? Are they seeking guidance in a particular area? You might send out a survey to discover what type of help people need most.

After you’ve pinpointed needs (and have drummed up some excitement about the program!), start compiling a list of potential mentors. Do your best to match the mentees’ requirements with the mentors’ experience. Then, send a personal message to each mentor, inviting them to participate in the program.

In your email, don’t forget to mention the reason you’ve chosen this person—their expertise in X, their reputation as a top salesperson, their enthusiasm in collaborating with others. Then, be sure to specify the time commitment. Since many people are busy with their day-to-day responsibilities, it’s best to keep this at a minimum (say, 45 minutes every month or half an hour every two weeks).

Once you’ve paired your people, give some mentoring guidelines (suggested questions to ask, suggested meeting times). Then, take a step back and let the mentoring commence! You may want to check in every once in a while (at the midpoint, perhaps), but this should mostly be hands-off for you.

When the program concludes, take a survey to see how it went AND ask your mentors if they would be willing to stay active in the cohort program. Then, start the whole process over again with your next batch of people.

A mentoring cohort is a great way to connect batches of people with appropriate mentors. If you think several people in your organization could benefit from mentoring, I encourage you to initiate an in-house mentoring cohort. And the bonus? You will also gain recognition as a leader, a doer, and someone who is actively trying to improve company culture. A win all around.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE

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The COVID-19 pandemic brought about unprecedented changes to nearly every aspect of our lives including the ways in which companies, both small and large, conduct their work. Out of necessity, many businesses made the shift from the traditional 9-5 “in-office” workdays to a less rigid “work from home” model. The remarkable benefits of increased flexibility, non-existent commutes, and the elimination of expensive childcare for many working parents has swayed organizations to continue with this arrangement in the post-pandemic world.

Despite the plethora of advantages, this new work style has the potential for the lines of communication between colleagues to become frayed as people complete their work independently and on their own schedules. The need for workplace mentors has not changed, however, and you’ll need to find creative solutions to bridge the distance between yourself and the people you advise.

BE FLEXIBLE

Remote work allows for people to be more intentional about how they plan their calendars and how and when they interact with people. Consider creating a document in the cloud for you and the people you work with to share thoughts throughout the week asynchronously, so when you come together in your virtual meetings, you have thoughtful talking points and ideas to build on. This ongoing effort allows for you and your mentee to closely collaborate in meaningful ways even without the face-to-face options.

BE CONSISTENT

While some aspects of your schedule may be more flexible, the need for regular, dependable check-ins with your mentee(s) should be non-negotiable. Weekly meetings can provide comfort for workers who may be struggling with balancing responsibilities remotely. The assurance that you have carved out time specifically for their questions and ideas promotes employee well-being that benefits them personally and professionally. If urgent questions arise throughout the week, or you can’t make a regularly scheduled meeting, communicate that, reschedule, and follow-up with answers to questions promptly.

BUILD INDIVIDUAL RELATIONSHIPS

Honest and open communication is key. Ask your mentee to identify any areas that they would like to grow, and work in tandem to create a realistic plan that can be put into action. Remember that since your mentee won’t physically see you in the office, you’ll want to find inventive ways to be visible, accessible, and approachable. Reaching out to people outside of regularly scheduled meetings for quick “check-ins” can be a great way to offer support in the online world.

ACKNOWLEDGE ACHIEVEMENTS

Recognize professional accomplishments that your mentee has been working hard to attain. Give people unprompted shout-outs in meetings and highlight the value that person brings to your organization. Be sure to celebrate both the small successes and the big victories equally. Consistent recognition makes people feel noticed and appreciated and promotes a strong sense of community and optimism for everybody.

The relationship you build with your mentee should have just as much value for you as it does for them. Consider this a mutual exercise in building trust, extending your professional networks, honing your communication skills, and sharing new, diverse perspectives and experiences with one another. With these tips, you’re sure to build lasting relationships with the people that you work with.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Hands holding a seedling
Image via Pixabay

Striking out fresh in any career comes with its own set of challenges. If you’re lucky, you’ll enter into your industry with a few contacts and entry level skills before having to navigate where to look for employment and how to distinguish yourself from a large pool of talent. While this generation of young people are capable workers in their own right, young professionals don’t have the benefit of having experienced an industry for a decade or two like their superiors. Mentoring others provides a unique opportunity to fill in the gaps for these workers and offers many rewarding benefits:  

1 . Better Outcomes and Relationships

Mentoring, like tutoring, is an interpersonal skill. When people feel their voice is heard and being encouraged to grow, they are much more likely to remain engaged with their work and voice concerns more confidently. Any time you can foster better feedback from your team, the stronger the team becomes.

2. Reputation

Building a reputation as a mentor in your industry can become a distinguishing part of your career. Often, companies seek to draw upper-talent from pools of candidates that are known in professional circles to be helpful leaders and actively collaborative. Mentoring your employees demonstrates both of these skills easily and clearly, particularly for mentors who’ve done so throughout their career. As the adage goes: “You get back what you put in.”

3. Professional Development

Just because someone can benefit from the guidance of a mentor doesn’t mean they’re without skills to bring to the table. New workers, especially young people, often come with the proficiencies or strategies needed to approach new technology or use new software. You can take advantage of the personal relationship you strike with your mentee to have them teach you how to effectively use these tools. You both walk away more competent.

4. Networking

Life is long and careers often take unexpected twists and turns. The analyst that started at your company five years ago may quickly rise in the ranks of the industry to a sector you’re interested in doing business with or simply learning more about. The more people you can foster a mentoring relationship with, the wider you cast your net across the next generation of leaders. These relationships may end up among the most important in your working life.

5. Personal Fulfillment

Any teacher can attest to this last benefit. Mentoring is an opportunity to open yourself to others whose perspective may be entirely different from your own. Learning from one another about subjects that extend beyond the scope of your job will enrich you personally and professionally.

Mentoring others is essential to bridging the gap between generations of workers. Stepping up to help guide colleagues through this process will not only reward your mentee and yourself, but your industry as a whole. So take a leap and share what you know!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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