Effective mentoring is part art, part science—and you get better at it with experience.
Dennis C. Miller, a former healthcare CEO, has mentored dozens of people, and believes the willingness of others to guide him in his youth and earlier in his career helped him overcome major obstacles and achieve leadership positions in healthcare and the nonprofit sector. Miller’s written a book about his experiences, “Moppin’ Floors to CEO: From Hopelessness and Failure to Happiness and Success” (Author House). Here, Miller offers fellow CEOs 5 tips for becoming a better mentor.
1. Your attitude shapes the outcome. Don’t agree to be a mentor unless you really want to do this. Mentors genuinely want to help others. You will get back from doing this—I know I have— but it’s not about financial gain. It’s about sharing your experiences.
2. Choose your mentee relationships carefully. Not everyone benefits from being mentored, and not every mentor is right for every mentee. Before agreeing to be a mentor, meet with the individual and get a sense of whether there’s a good fit personally.
3. Create a mentoring “contract”—and stick to it. Be clear about your own expectations, and get the other person to do the same. Agree on the goals of the relationship, how often you’ll meet, how often you’ll pause to review progress. Some people put this in writing. Others are fine if it’s spoken aloud. The important thing is to be clear about it with each other.
4. Respect your mentor-mentee relationship. It’s easy to cancel meetings or multitask when you’re crunched for time. You want to avoid doing this. If you’re not taking it seriously, your mentee won’t either.
5. Listen more than you speak. Be a proactive listener. The best thing you can do as a mentor is to ask the right questions and listen—really listen—to the replies.”
Most successful leaders can look back and recall senior people taking a personal interest in their careers at crucial stages. Being mentored is closely associated with achievement. The people you mentor today might well become the fast-trackers you’ll work closely with in years to come.