Productive Mentors

If you’ve identified a need for strengthened leadership development programs for your employees or members, you could be considering a formal mentoring program. You know you have people who want mentors and you  have a group of more experienced people interested in being mentors. But, you also know being a mentor is not for everyone. Though your mentor candidates are willing – are they ready? Just because a person knows how to do something well and has years of experience doing it, doesn’t mean they have the skills to teach what they know.

For many people a mentoring session can become a game of Monkey See/Monkey Do: “This is the way I do this , it has always worked for me,  and this is how you should do it from now on.”

For others it becomes a trip down memory lane:  “Why, when I started in this industry, the computers still had green diode screens…”

Still others take on a Dear Abbey quality: “Now that I understand your problem, here is what you ought to do…”

These approaches do work in some instances, but they don’t  foster a culture of learning and open communication.  They don’t lead to the majority of people becoming proficient in breakthrough thinking and, ultimately causing increased productivity.  Rather, they can alienate the protégé/mentee, take too long to get to the point, and fail to produce lasting results.

What we have found to be useful in our programs, is to teach prospective mentors how to become keen observers, enhance their listening and emotional intelligence skills and for them to practice asking reflective questions that allow their protégés to dance with them toward insight and breakthrough.  These conversations can be so effective, that complex issues can be dealt with in just five to 15 minutes. Once learned in the context of the mentoring program, these skills will be useful for managers to use with all of their direct reports. Now that’s productive mentoring that leads a high return on investment.