how to mentor someone

Is there anything better than spotting someone relatively inexperienced but smart, driven, and generally awesome, and helping them along in their career? I think it’s one of the most rewarding things about managing (second only to having the power to make things run well rather than your department or organization being at the mercy of some crappy manager).

If you have someone great but inexperienced on your staff, consider taking them under your wing and helping them attain professional greatness. Here are some ways to do it:

* Invite them to sit in while you do things — interviews, important meetings, whatever. Talk to them afterward about how it went and even point out why you did particular things.

* Talk to them about dilemmas you’re facing in your own job. Tell them the options you’re considering, the various factors you have to take into consideration, what you’re deciding, and why. Ask what they would do. This is huge, because it helps hone their own instincts. If you only do one thing, do this.

* Give them an intern to manage. Talk to them regularly about the management challenges that arise and how to handle them, everything from feeling comfortable being in a position of authority to addressing sloppy work to what to say when the intern shows up in flip flops.

* Give them greater and greater responsibilities. Give them things they’re not sure they can handle, and talk them through it. Help them figure out their approach, and talk over how it went afterward.

* Talk to them directly about their goals. Actively look for ways you can help them move toward them.

* Give them the confidence to take on more by making sure you tell them how great they are. Early in their career, they tend to think they’re average. Help them recognize when they’re capable of more.

* When the time is right, promote them.

{ 18 comments… read them below }

  1. almostgotit

    Terrific post! This process is an integral part of some fields (such as academia), where mentors take great pride in the achievement of their students, and even list successful graduates in their own CV’s. Even in the academy, though, some few small men and women can’t suppress their own fears and jealosies and see these rising stars as competition.

    How much better to see them as legacies. Truth: no one ever lifts up another person without lifting herself up, as well.

  2. Jackie Cameron

    I have mentored students of HRM in the past. It is such a great opportunity to share what you have learned with someone in the earlier stages of their career.

    The only drawback might be when the mentor overwhelms the mentee trying (usually unknowingly) to make them into their own image. I have seen lawyers do this. You know – my way is the one right way. That is not helpful.

    I would urge anyone who is asked to mentor to take the opportunity. In a good two way mentoring relationship the personal learning can be huge!

  3. City HR

    Your list is great. A great mentor really impacts the future for an employee. Anyone considering mentoring should read your list.

  4. Anonymous

    My wonderful (I thought) mentor was actually grooming me; a few years later, when I moved 1200 miles to accept an offer of employment ($60k) where he would be my supervisor, I discovered his primary management tools included "omniscience" (stalking) and reprisals. A coworker was also targeted 2 weeks after he hired on. His behaviors suggest psychopathy – found in 1% of the population. This article has helped:

  5. Veli

    The post is old but very helpfull.
    I was asked by one of my subordinates to mentor her and I am taking this as an opportunity.

    Truth: no one ever lifts up another person without lifting himself up.

    Good post

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  7. Nathaniel

    It seems that the two biggest hurdles are asking someone to mentor you and having a plan as a mentor. These are great tips to help break down those barriers and develop people & great business relationships.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Um, I AM Alison Green. We are one and the same. (Look at the bio at the bottom of the U.S. News post, where it explains that I run this site.)

      Although I do like that you are looking out for copyright violations, because sometimes other sites do run my work without permission and it pisses me off!

        1. TRB

          This is hilarious to me because the article was published on US News like 6 months after this post was written. Even if it wasn’t Alison, this post was still written first.

  8. Ellen Ensher PHD

    This is a great article! I have my own mentoring site and book and am constantly encouraging others to establish mentoring relationships. The importance of mentoring allows yourself to build business friendships while fostering great work ethic. Alison, feel free to contact me if you are interested in maybe guest posting on my site!

  9. Rob Bird

    So I just found this post and have a question; what do you do when you are being mentored but the mentor isn’t giving you what you need?

Comments are closed.