Effective mentors help their employees find new ways to use their skills and talents. They give them the confidence to do more. But mentoring employees takes time, and it’s often hard to know where to start. With the daily distractions businesses face, mentoring often gets pushed to the side.
And that’s when considering who was an important mentor to you is helpful. What were they like? What did they teach you? How did they leave a lasting impression? These mentors are important because they taught us how to be in the world.
One of my mentors was my grandmother. When I was very young, I told my mother, “When I grow up, I hope I’m as givingful as Grandma Roker.”
I don’t remember saying these words, but my mother remembers them because they so accurately captured my grandmother’s giving spirit.
And even though she passed away when I was just starting high school, her spirit still influences who I am today.
My grandmother was born in the early 1900s and lived through times of scarcity. She was frugal but happy, kind, and generous. She lived a simple life surrounded by simple things.
Because she lived a modest life, it might be easy to think she was poor. But when I think of her welcoming home and warm personality, her life was rich.
She always had time for me when I came to visit.
She let me make a mess building mud pies or having a fashion show using her old clothes and jewelry. We made art projects out of bits of fabric, paper, and old jars. She let me crawl all over her house playing hide-and-seek.
What I remember is the time spent with her. It was always an adventure. We didn’t travel anywhere special. The magic of those times was receiving her undivided attention, love, patience, and creativity.
These times allowed me to explore what I loved doing and how the world worked. She asked me questions. I felt valued and accepted for being curious and adventurous. She didn’t set expectations on who I had to be. She let me discover that for myself.
I didn’t call her “givingful” because she gave lots of material things. She was “givingful” because she gave me her time.
She was the witness to who I would become.
And this is probably the greatest lesson in leadership I’ve ever been given. To bring out the best in others, we simply need to be present with them.
If you want to mentor someone, here are 3 things you can do to make the time you spend mentoring employees effective:
1. Avoid Telling.
It’s easy to confuse mentoring with training. When you’re training someone to do a task, you need to teach them what to do.
But mentoring is about helping them get curious about how they see the world.
All you need to have is a healthy dose of curiosity and a willingness to listen.
2. Start Asking.
Asking open-ended questions allows you to learn about your team.
These are questions that start with What, Why, How, Why, When, and Where. They are NOT Yes/No questions. They require your employees to give thoughtful answers that are unique to their perspective.
Mentoring employees begins by understanding how they see the world, and you can only discover this by asking thought-provoking questions.
3. Listen and Leave.
By asking good questions, you are getting people to see things from a different perspective. Avoid the temptation to cloud the situation by offering your own opinions. Instead, thank them for sharing their insights and leave the conversation.
Your employee will continue to ponder these questions on their own. And that’s when they start to gain new insights.
My greatest mentor taught me the benefits of allowing others to explore and consider new things. She gave me her most precious gifts – time, curiosity, and acceptance. And because of those gifts – she became the most “givingful” person I know.
What kinds of questions can you ask your employees to learn more about how they see the world?