5 Ways to Mentor Effectively

Entrepreneur in Residence Diana Henderson shares her recipe for paying it forward—and it pays off.

From Diana: Most of us begin our careers as individual contributors with a promise of opportunity for advancement—based on performance, of course. The path to get there varies  by individual.

From the Ivanka Trump Collection: (Clockwise from upper left) Pearl Cuff, Band Bangle, Geometric Bangle, Floral Cuff, Geometric Bracelet, Layered Bracelet, Band Bangle

A small percentage of people benefit from the “who you know” card we all cross our fingers for, hoping to enter organizations or roles we might not otherwise be qualified for on paper. And then, there are those who start in roles that graze the floor just below the bottom rung of the ladder, working tirelessly to success. 

Regardless of entry into the workforce, I believe there is one common theme among those who thrive: a mentor’s investment.

I’ve been blessed by the mentorship of a few key individuals that inspired, motivated, coached, guided and directed me. And, I’m beyond grateful to those who’ve invested in me. What’s more, I’ve learned there’s an even greater blessing and return in paying it forward as I invest in those in my sphere of influence.

In leadership, multiplication is the game. The more effective you are in replicating yourself, the more you'll achieve through the efforts of your people. Your legacy as a leader is highly dependent upon those you raise up. Here’s my recipe for effectively mentoring others: 

Involve your mentee 

Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” I often think about the moments in my career when I grew the most. They certainly weren’t when someone did something for me. In those moments, I learned how to lean on a crutch; not walk with my own two feet. Instead, they were the moments when I observed and contributed through my own action. To put this practice into motion, model the behavior being taught first, then allow your mentee to give it a try. Now you have a platform to constructively critique the mentee’s behavior.

Assign homework

Mentorship is an investment of your time resources, no different than a stock is an investment of your financial resources. You wouldn’t invest your financial resources in a stock that yields a 98% chance of no return. So, how do you know if someone is a worthy recipient of your mentorship? Assign some homework. It doesn’t need to be a lofty assignment or overly cumbersome, but something that requires action on the part of the person you’re considering investing in. If they follow through, they’ve demonstrated that action will occur when you invest. If they don’t follow through or make excuses as to why they can’t, didn’t or couldn’t—well, there’s your answer!

Show your service

“If you’re too big to serve, you’re too small to lead.” I’ve heard this quoted by many great leaders. The best way to demonstrate leadership for constituents (clients, colleagues, employees, etc.) is to serve that audience. If you’re not sure where to start, simply copy the phrase you’ve heard from any customer support center: “How can I be of service?” It’s a humbling posture, but it’s also quite contagious. Watch others catch your servant leadership.

Reap what you sow

The law of reciprocity is defined by psychologists as an equal exchange or benefit from a relationship. Stated a bit differently, you’ll get what you put in or you reap what you sow. If I’m sowing time with someone, I’m going to benefit from a margin of time back when that person, or someone alike, is now trained and taking things off of my plate. 

Speak in praise

We have a choice, within each day and every conversation, to encourage or discourage those we influence through mentorship. Encouragement, whether positive or constructive, fans a flame of confidence in your mentee. The greater their confidence, the more likely they are to encourage others around them. Therefore, when we choose to speak an encouraging word over the alternative, our effort is multiplied. When we take part in discouragement, our effort is divisive, breaking down the confidence of that person, holding them back from multiplying others. I want my leadership legacy to multiply, not divide!
 

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