Magazine Article | May 12, 2012

Three Tips On How To Be A Better Mentor

Source: Life Science Leader

By Rebecca Shambaugh

Being a mentor should not be taken lightly. In my experience, the best mentors gain as much from the process as those they seek to help. When mentoring your staff, it’s important to help them look at what they might be doing, or not doing, to hold themselves back. There are a number of self-limiting beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors that hold people back from tapping their full potential.

Push People Outside Of Their Comfort Zones
People often stay in one role too long, based on the assumption that if they just continue to do a good job, people will see and recognize their great contributions. To avoid this, take an active mentoring strategy to push people outside of their comfort zone by doing the following:

  • Lay the groundwork for future moves by helping to network your understudy and make their work/accomplishments, skills, and interests known to others.
  • Continually check their marketability. Are they in line with others that are within the same level of responsibility and experience?
  • Teach them to see risks as opportunities, so when one comes along that might be a stretch, they understand it in the context of what is the worst thing that could happen?  

Embracing Good Enough: Perfectionism Versus Excellence 
Perfectionism is always placing the same high standard for performance on everything you or your team does. We can lose sight of the priorities, as well as the important expectations of your company’s future leaders — driving them to burnout.  Strategies to avoid this while in a mentoring role include:

  • Teach what the most critical tasks are and have the understudy put energy there. Most importantly, teach the concept of when to know a job has been done “good enough” — and move on. 
  • Seek and give feedback. Use it to calibrate your own performance standards as a mentor. Knowing the difference will allow you to manage your work better.
  • Let go — delegate to your understudy the more detailed tasks and allow them to operate under the “good enough” standard of performance.

Making Your Words Count
Your credibility and power as a leader and mentor depend greatly on how others perceive you. Much of this is determined by how well you communicate. Making your words count is not only about what you say, but how you say it. Guidelines for making your words count as a mentor include:

  • Be a person of few words. Provide a clear, concise message and then own that message.
  • Know your audience. Do your homework before talking with someone and adapt your style to how they want to be spoken to.
  • Speak up. If you have something valuable to say — speak up! Act confident, balance emotion with logic, present relevant facts and information, time your contribution, and have good information at your fingertips to back up your perspective.

    A nationally-known leadership strategist, Rebecca Shambaugh has more than 20 years of experience helping organizations and executives respond to critical leadership challenges and opportunities in today’s business environment. She is president and CEO of SHAMBAUGH, where she founded Women In Leadership and Learning (WILL), an organization dedicated to the research, advancement, and retention of women leaders and executives. Shambaugh is the author of It’s Not A Glass Ceiling, It’s A Sticky Floor. www.