Tips for Mentoring Success: Why Mentoring Is Not about Mastery

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Mentoring is not merely about acquiring knowledge; it’s about fostering improvement and achieving tangible results. Learning must translate into measurable outcomes or betterment – better performance, greater productivity, and higher effectiveness. Ever-evolving mentors play a crucial role in guiding protégés to effectively apply their knowledge and skills in real-life situations.

Join us as we explore the essential tips for successful mentoring and discover strategies to ensure that learning truly takes root. Our topic expert, Dr. Chip Bell, the founder of the Chip Bell Group, will share valuable insights and expertise on this transformative journey.

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Building a Strong Foundation: Three Effective Tips for Successful Mentoring

Effective mentors understand that the learning process extends beyond mere instruction and that true comprehension is achieved through real-life experiences. They acknowledge that the learner’s journey is incomplete until they have tested their knowledge in the laboratory of life. Moreover, there exist various actions mentors can undertake to ensure that the lessons imparted within the mentor-mentee relationship are truly internalized. In this regard, there are three valuable tips for fostering successful mentoring including lending support, identifying and addressing obstacles, and advocating for informal learning.

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1. Lend a Helping Hand: From Rehearsal to Performance

When mentoring someone, it is important to remember that the journey from rehearsal to performance is a significant leap. In the sheltered realm of mentorship, boldness may thrive, but in the real world, it takes true bravery to face challenges head-on.

Look for ways to “be there” when your protégé has “opening night.” Remember that rehearsal is always a far cry from the reality of actual performance. Boldness within the cloistered safety of a mentoring relationship is quite different from bravery in the school of hard knocks. When your protégé is slated to engage in their first attempt at “flying solo,” send your well wishes and affirmation. Call after the fact to learn of the outcome. Regardless of the success or failure of the first time out, be supportive. Offer your help; do not automatically give your help. Your protégé needs to feel independent, not still saddled with a “father knows best” Monday morning quarterback.

If you can actually be there, assume the role of fan and cheerleader, not sideline coach. Let your protégé know you are there, feeling excited and confident. But avoid the grandstanding of the doting parent eagerly letting the stands know, “That’s my kid!” Run appropriate interference to help ensure your protégé has a fair chance at putting his or her new learning into practice. This may entail securing support or permissions from others who may affect the protégé’s performance.

Tips on supporting protégés:

  • Embrace the power of partnership and camaraderie in the mentoring relationship.
  • Guide protégés through the transition from rehearsal to actual performance.
  • Balance support and independence to foster protégés’ confidence and growth.
  • Run interference and secure necessary support for protégés’ success.

2. Be Vigilant for Obstacles to Learning

The successful learning outcomes achieved through your mentoring efforts can be rendered ineffective if the protégé encounters a discouraging environment that either punishes or fails to support their newly acquired skills. As a mentor, it is essential to remain vigilant and identify any obstacles that hinder the application of the knowledge gained.

Picture your protégé’s learning as a freshly planted tree. Over time, it will develop deep roots and resilience against challenges such as strong winds, diseases, and extreme temperatures. However, during its initial stages as a sapling, it is particularly vulnerable and requires support, protection, and careful nurturing until it can thrive independently. The same principle applies to a protégé. As they acquire new skills, they are akin to fragile growth. It becomes difficult for them to defend their newly adopted behaviors against external pressures urging them to revert to their old ways. In this struggle to sustain their new skills, protégés rely on mentors to provide assistance and guidance.

3. Be an Advocate for Informal Learning: Creating a Culture of Continuous Development

A crucial aspect of being an exceptional mentor is creating an environment that recognizes and nurtures the importance of continuous learning. This involves actively promoting informal learning within the workplace and integrating it seamlessly into daily routines.

A man and a woman looking over a computer

A major consulting firm found that professional reading among employees increased when the firm installed magazine racks with professional journals in the lavatories. The firm’s president discovered that surprisingly few journals were absent-mindlessly removed, and employees began contributing their own copies of journals that the firm did not subscribe to. Comments like “Did you read that article about . . .?” were frequently interjected in staff meetings, which further reinforced the amount of informal learning through journal reading.

Company magazines, newsletters, blogs, and bulletin boards can also be a good source of learning for employees. An insurance company found the most popular articles in its company magazine were interviews with executives, managers, and employees dealing with what their area was engaged in at the time. Done with clever layouts and graphics, “to all employees” media can serve as a valuable but inexpensive way of fostering employee learning. The unit or company intranet can likewise be a great boon to learning.

Fostering Improvement and Achieving Measurable Results as a Mentor

Learning that ends when the protégé bids adieu to the mentor is likely retained only until the protégé reaches the elevator. Given the shaky tentativeness of new learning, it is up to the mentor to come up with ways to help shelter, support, and nurture it until it “takes.” Knowing how to eliminate barriers and erect supports to buttress the learner until habits are cemented and competencies are hardwired can go a long way to help the learning transfer process for your protégé. Most important is to create a climate that prizes not only ongoing learning, but also risk-taking in the protégé’s trying out new knowledge and skills back on the job.

Two women looking at a computer

In the mentoring journey, it is crucial to go beyond surface-level knowledge acquisition and focus on fostering improvement and achieving measurable results. With Dr. Bell’s expertise, we’ve explored the essential elements of successful mentoring and discovered strategies to ensure that learning takes root. By offering support, vigilance against obstacles, and advocating for informal learning, mentors can create a climate that prizes ongoing development and encourages protégés to try out new knowledge and skills. Together, let’s embrace the transformative power of mentoring and drive organizational success through continuous learning and innovation.

Headshot of Chip Bell
Chip Bell

Chip Bell is the founder of The Chip Bell Group . Chip is a well-known consultant and a sought-after speaker. He is the author and co-author of several best-selling books including, The 9 ½ Principles of Innovative ServiceTake Their Breath AwayMagnetic ServiceService MagicCustomers as PartnersManagers as Mentors, and Managing Knock Your Socks off Service. Chip’s articles have appeared in professional journals such as Leadership ExcellenceLeader to Leader MagazineT+D Magazine, Training Magazine, and the Harvard Management Update. He has appeared on several major networks, and his work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, USA Today, Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, and Businessweek. Chip holds graduate degrees in organizational psychology and human resource development from Vanderbilt University and The George Washington University.

Connect with Chip on LinkedIn.

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