Career & Jobs

Avoid These 5 Mentoring Mistakes To Build Truly Inspired Teams

As workers continue to seek greener pastures, employers continue to see droves of their talent walking out the door. Microsoft’s Work Trend Index 2021 researched more than 30,000 people across 31 countries and found that 40% intend to look for another job. According to a McKinsey study, 41% of those who leave do so because of a lack of career development. More professionals are re-evaluating their priorities and identifying what they need and want from their employers.

Microsoft executive Lani Phillips suggests that companies have undervalued mentoring as a talent management practice. She says that (when done properly) it can significantly change an employee’s engagement with their company.

Data backs this up. A 2019 survey showed that 91% of people who have a mentor are satisfied at work. This is important because according to Gallup only 20% of employees globally are actually engaged in their work. Another study revealed retention rates for people who have a mentor can be 50% higher than for those who are not mentored. Mentoring is a proven way to retain employees, and in the current war for talent, no company can grow without keeping people engaged.

Phillips took matters into her own hands to help colleagues looking for support through mentoring. During the pandemic, she noticed the volume of mentoring requests begin to grow, with talent looking to strengthen connections and seeking ways to succeed in this new world of work. She knew that taking on more mentees one-on-one was not possible within the confines of her schedule, but she felt a strong desire to help more people. She decided to modernize her approach and build a solution that scales.

Launching Modern Mentoring with Lani Phillips, a digital talk show on LinkedIn Live, Phillips now shares this wisdom globally, providing access to anyone who wants to thrive in corporate spaces. These monthly discussions allow people to participate in a live conversation and ask questions in real-time. She is now followed by thousands, providing a lifeline for those who don’t have a network of professionals who are willing to share authentically.

“Mentoring has never been more important,” Phillips asserts. “Navigating our new world of work is challenging, and figuring out how to thrive is top of mind for many. Without in-person interaction, it’s a challenge to build relationships with managers, colleagues and stakeholders. And that means it’s more difficult to navigate your career.”

As a mentor and mentee herself, Phillips also knows that mentoring tactics vary widely—and so do the results. Here are her top five don’ts:

Mistake #1. Not investing your time strategically.

“One of the barriers to a robust mentoring relationship is that too many leaders are not willing to invest the time in mentoring, saying they don’t have time. The truth is that mentoring is our responsibility as a leader to coach and support others who are looking to be successful and advance their careers,” says Phillips. Time is definitely a precious commodity, but mentoring should be approached as an investment, not an expense. And this investment is wise when you look at the costs involved in recruiting and training new talent. When evaluating mentoring relationships, build in the necessary time to get it right, including preparing and supporting the mentee. Make it an important part of your job, integrated into your monthly or quarterly rhythm, and watch your personal brand soar as you build a reputation for developing talent and modernizing your company’s leadership strategies.

Mistake #2. Defining mentoring too narrowly.

The traditional model for mentoring is a series of one-on-one meetings. This model has not evolved to meet employees where they are today and to take advantage of all the powerful mentoring resources available. Leaders can share mock assignments, activities, books, podcasts, videos, TED talks and articles that include powerful career advice. These digital assets represent a growing trend Phillips refers to as a digital mentoring, and that’s a role she plays with her digital talk show. Mentees should understand that development can come from a variety of sources, and a good mentor helps them form the habit of seeking professional development and inspiration on a regular basis.

Mistake #3. Winging it without a destination in mind.

Mentors need to adopt proven best practices for mentoring, using techniques like these from Yale. Mentors should start every relationship with a mentoring agreement that outlines mentee goals, duration and frequency of connection, expectations and mentee commitment. Phillips says that clarity in this initial agreement will result in better results because expectations are agreed upon up front. Checking in with one another throughout the relationship will increase success as you track progress toward goals or adjust expectations as needed.

Mistake #4. Overlooking the benefits for the mentor.

“Mentoring is a two-way street, and mentors should look at what they can learn from their mentees,” says Phillips. Look for a mentee who has experiences or skills you’d like to learn more about. Reverse mentoring can be powerful bonus for both parties. Phillips was not comfortable with social media when she started Modern Mentoring and was mentored by someone at an earlier career stage about how to boost those skills.

Mistake #5. Thinking it’s all on you.

Make it clear to mentees that it’s up to them to drive the conversation and come prepared to each meeting, share updates, report on progress toward goals, schedule meetings and send an agenda in advance to give the mentor time to think about what advice and or examples to bring to the discussion. “It’s a dialogue, not a monologue, so encourage your mentee to use time wisely so you can have time for discussion,” observes Phillips.

Mentoring can be a rewarding experience for both mentors and mentees alike, and if it’s done correctly, it’s a valuable—and efficient—way to engage and retain talent. And while you’re creating a more rewarding work experience for others, you’re creating long-term growth for your team, your company, and your personal brand.

William Arruda is a keynote speaker, co-founder of CareerBlast.TV and creator of the 360Reach personal brand feedback survey which allows you to get the real scoop about your professional reputation from those who know you.

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