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Five Steps to Becoming a Better Mentor

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Aspects of mentoring include giving useful feedback, mapping out career goals and developing the respect and trust of your protégé. One of the unrecognized values of mentoring is that it reinforces the good habits and traits being absorbed in the mentor as well as cultivating them in the student. Many organizations give themselves a pat on the back for implementing mentoring practices, then become complacent about monitoring and continually improving them. Here are five steps you can take to increase the quality of your mentoring and take it to the next level.

  1. Recognize You Are a Role Model
    Ever hear movie stars or athletes bristle about being role models for kids and the burden that responsibility entails? It's much easier to accept the fact that you are a role model and to project an image of competency and professionalism. Know that your behavior will be emulated and that your overall image will last longer than your words or professional achievements.

  2. Make Yourself Available
    Increased responsibility often decreases your face time with co-workers. Keep an open door policy with those you mentor and make yourself approachable. If need be, schedule a regular slice of time when you can meet and discuss issues, goals and progress. The encouraging thing about time is that when you invest it in teaching, learning tends to accelerate and protégés are able to progress on their own without requiring as much attention.

  3. Use Discretion
    Often, your most important role as a mentor is simply listening to a concern or counseling someone through a rough spot. When protégés confide in you, make it clear that topics discussed in confidence will remain private. Breaking a confidence jeopardizes the trust that you've forged.

  4. Turning to Proper Channels
    Knowing information and the proper individuals for specific projects is one thing. Navigating within your company's established system is entirely different. Your status affords you a more sophisticated understanding of your company's system and how to use it to your advantage. Impart this wisdom to your protégé. Often, office politics can be confounding. Knowing the paths of least resistance and optimum productivity is worth its weight in gold.

  5. Expect the Best
    When you expect the best from people, you are much more likely to get it. High, yet realistic expectations will up a protégé's confidence level and push them to excel. If people are still uncertain, share a personal triumph from your own experience. Explain that you came up against an obstacle and how you overcame it. Often, this will give someone a vision of how they can achieve their goal.
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