How to Mentor your Team

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Being a good mentor means you are dedicated to your mentees success, says Karen Russo, CEO and Chief Talent Officer of K. Russo Consulting, a boutique executive search and human resources firm. Therefore when your organizations makes a commitment to mentor a team it must be all in.

“Plan the time, commit to it, and review together,” says Russo, who is also a member of Sanford Rose Associates, a Top 10 ranked network of independently-owned executive search firms assisting clients to fill mission-critical positions. “Don’t make excuses or let other things interrupt this.”

That means when serving as a mentor, especially in a team setting, suggestions, answers and responses to questions and problems should be held with high regard, says Russo. No answers are bad ones except saying “I don’t know.”

“People should feel encouraged to offer ideas suggestions and responses, be allowed to think creatively about responding to problems or offering solutions or recognizing possible enhancements,” says Russo. “A mentor should be honest with feedback and direction in a genuine way and most important, should be an active listener. Accountability from both sides is key to good mentoring.”

The best mentoring tip Juli Smith ever received from her own mentor on how to mentor a team was to ‘inspect what you expect.’

“When you give advice and mentorship, the key is to follow up and see if your mentee completed the tasks and assignments and to hold them accountable to the goals that they are setting to achieve their own growth,” says Smith, President of The Smith Consulting Group LLC.

A good mentor also serves as a coach, says Jayne Heggen, President of Heggen Group, a management consulting firm that provides a variety of business services, including professional mentoring.

“Mentors play a significant role in an individual’s success,” says Heggen. “They serve as a link rather than a resource.”

Heggen offers these tips for managers, small business owners and other leaders seeing tips on how to mentor a team:

  • Keep track of your mentee and his or her progress.
  • Show patience: Let your mentee dump his or her bucket before offering insights.
  • Listen with understanding, and without judgment.
  • Summarize details into a few key points.
  • Use stories as a launching pad, rather than the focus of the discussion.
  • Give constructive feedback that challenges rather than discourages.

Mark Phillips, CEO of HireEducation, a search firm focused on education and education technology, offers these four tips for mentoring a team:

  1. Get clear goals from team members and ask for permission to hold each individual accountable to their own goals.
  2. Make everything measurable.  Be very disciplined about this.
  3. Develop meaningful personal relationships with them.  “You don’t have to be best friends, but you should have deep insight into why they do what they do and into what’s going on in their lives,” says Phillips.
  4. Have regular one on one meetings. These need to be routine.  If they are not, your team members will begin to identify one on one meeting requests with being in trouble.

Many organizations believe they have to have a formal mentoring program in place, and/or that they should only focus on mentoring only recent college grads. Neither is true, says said Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half Management Resources.

“Professionals at all levels can benefit from having a mentor,” says McDonald. “Those trying to advance to the next level or looking to make a change might particularly welcome your advice.”

Today’s workplace poses a number of challenges that even the most talented professionals struggle to address. Mentors, and mentoring a team can fill those gaps.

“Mentors provide valuable guidance on decision-making and career management that mentees may not be able to obtain from other sources,” says McDonald.

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