Overcoming Ego Obstacles to Mentoring Others (Part II)

This week we dive deeper into the ways in which you as a leader may be unconsciously sabotaging yourself when it comes to developing your employees and transform you into a mentor who your employees will clamor for!

In my previous post on this subject  we talked about making the commitment to mentor, investing the time, creating meaningful mentoring conversations, creating a vision for your mentee and identifying gaps in performance.

Whew, that’s a lot already!

This week I’m going to talk about some of the Ego Obstacles to avoid.

Ego Obstacle #1:   Sending people to training as a substitute for mentoring.

Now don’t get me wrong, my job (and Learning as Leadership) wouldn’t exist if people did not attend our trainings. However there are ways to do this effectively. Training is NOT a substitute for mentoring or coaching. I am tempted to repeat this last sentence because I see it ALL the time. Sending someone to a training class or hiring a coach for them does not replace or abdicate your responsibility as a leader and mentor.

While training is a start, my observation is that leaders don’t always do a good job of integrating what the person has learned into their daily work life. It’s important to take the time to talk to people before they go to the training. Discuss what they intend to learn from it and how they want to benefit from it. When they return ask what they gained and how you can support them with the learning. Help them look for ways to apply what they learned and any challenges they may be having. This also gives them the message that the training is of value, worth the investment and taken seriously.

You might think others are better suited to mentor than you. A lot of my clients tell me “I’m not good at mentoring, I leave the development part to the experts.”  YOU are the expert of what you do, and that is enough to be able to mentor others.

Ego Obstacle #2.    Judging the other person. While part of the role of the mentor is to assess the other person’s capabilities, it’s not to judge. I really try to come from a place of non-judgment of others in my support of them. It is not always easy, I know. But I try to honestly believe that people are doing the best they can with what they have. Keeping in mind that they are not going to close their skill gaps perfectly, nor instantly, it’s important for mentors to continually look for places where encouragement and constructive feedback can be provided. Even if they are not progressing at the rate you want them to excel, you still hold fast to the shared vision and allow them to find their own path — while giving support and guidance along the way. (Remember this is not about what a fabulous mentor you are).

Ego Obstacle #3.   Falling into the passivity trap. Mentoring is not a one-way street where you are the wise dispenser of a font of information, encouraging your direct report to higher learning, nor is it a passive process where the other person just shows up to receive your guidance. The most effective mentoring relationships are those where the person being mentored shows up motivated, engaged and with a learning agenda of their own. Encourage those you mentor to keep a file of ongoing ideas to bring to the meeting. Suggest books and homework assignments they can practice in between meetings. Ask them to make and set the agenda. Give them the reigns to the meeting and they will take more personal responsibility for how it goes.

When done well, the upside of mentoring goes far beyond the growth of a single individual to benefit the entire organization. So many companies end up looking outside for a resource when they could have used homegrown talent if someone had taken the time to develop it internally. Anyone who is working in an organization has a co-responsibility to develop the next level of talent for that organization. By being the type of leader who views developing people as an important, long-term strategic action, you will help the individuals you manage feel valued and appreciated, and your organization will gain a well-trained group of future leaders.

To learn more about mentoring others, check out our next training program: http://godaddy.learningasleadership.com/programs/workshops/shared-mastery-module/

  1. “YOU are the expert of what you do, and that is enough to be able to mentor others.” I love that line. But what really resonated with me in this post was the piece around judgment and how important it is to recognize that change and integration take time. As coached we may, indeed, plant seeds but the flower emerges when all of wondrous conditions come together in just the right moment, at just the right time. Thank you for your rich insight.

  2. Maj Jensen says:

    This is so insightful, Laura. As a coach, I can easily relate to the impatience of wanting transformation to happen the moment we plant the seed. It’s rarely like that and it took me some time to get used to the fact that I’m not always there when the results of my work with a client show up. I think it’s so important to release the need to control the outcome and keep focus on the process. Loved this post. Thank you.

  3. Kimby says:

    These were excellent business tips, Laura, and I found myself applying them to my personal life, too… good advice for both!

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