• Nina Lovelace

Kandu: What we've learned about effective mentors

Kandu has been in the privileged position of supporting several #mentoring programmes to date, mainly programmes aimed at supporting business owners as they develop and grow their own businesses.

So we have started to develop a deep understanding of the difference between people who want to #mentor with those who are likely to be successful mentors and have a real impact upon another person’s development.

We are now pleased to be taking these learnings and rolling them out as part of our mentor training that we now supply to all new clients.

Although part of the impact of mentoring relies on the personal bond developed between mentor and #mentee, we have found that there are some mentoring foundations that, if are put in place in the early days of developing a mentoring #programme, can make all the difference in supporting that bond and delivering success.

Please consider the below when choosing your mentors, or if you are considering being a mentor yourself.

Mentors ensure their motivation for mentoring is aligned with the goals of the mentoring programme.

Mentors are most often asked to be mentors because of their seniority, reputation or network. Kandu sometimes sees engagement from very senior mentors reduce over time however (or not really get started as hoped), as these mentors are too busy to engage with mentees in the ways outlined below. Even the busiest mentor will make time however if their purpose or motivation is aligned with the mentoring programme - for example, a women’s mentoring programme is likely to get stronger support from senior managers who come from more diverse backgrounds and want to see greater diversity on senior teams, or from developing directors who are keen to hone their people skills by working closely 1-2-1 with a promising future business #leader.

Mentors - be sure you understand your mentoring motivation in relation to the programme, before offering your time.

Mentors make their advice & support contextual to their mentee.

New mentors may think mentoring is about talking about their own experiences in the hope that their learnings will be transferred to and/or similar challenges avoided by the mentee. Although often interesting, the mentee may not be able to translate the mentor’s learnings into their own context. It is always advisable to mentor with the understanding that you should be curious about what the mentee wants to achieve and to build out a support and advice strategy from their perspective. You may find for example that you have gaps in your experience that they need support with, but you can make useful introductions.

Mentors - if you are struggling to be curious about a mentee, they may be the wrong match for you, or you may need to develop your mentoring approach.

Mentors help their mentees prioritise.

Many organisations set up mentoring ‘contracts’ which outline how a mentor and mentee might work together. Although very useful, these often focus mainly on etiquette and structure eg who is responsible for setting up meetings and how often they should meet. Kandu has found that the most important thing a mentor can do for their mentee in their first meeting to set strong foundations for success, is to help their mentee clarify what it is they want to achieve from the mentoring programme. Often the mentee will have a myriad of things they want to achieve; the mentor needs to try and help them explore and identify which few are actually the most important to the mentee’s development and which are achievable during the programme’s length.

Mentors - helping your mentee prioritise may take a few sessions, but can also have a very immediate effect on the mentee’s mental health, helping them reduce overwhelm and get perspective.

Mentors encourage their mentees to hold themselves accountable.

Many mentors understand the importance of helping mentees prioritise - but too few actively support their mentees to take the next step, which is helping them set and commit to turning those priorities into a handful of priority development #goals they agree to work on with their mentor’s (and perhaps others’) support. Without this step, mentoring meetings can still be vague and unstructured even if broad priorities seem clear. Goal setting can be scary for mentees; its easier to talk about what you hope to do rather than write down what you intend to try to do, by when, and how with the oversight of someone else - but if a mentor can help a mentee achieve this level of focus and #accountability, they are supporting the mentee’s leadership skills in setting #objectives and key results, and helping to create opportunities for boosting motivation as the mentee signs off goals and celebrate success.

Mentors - it is also easier to help hold your mentee accountable to their goals if they are goals they have set themselves.

Mentors help their mentees think long term.

Some mentors do help their mentees to set and commit to long term goals; but we can then see mentors fall into a month-by-month task-based approach however as the programme continues, which then may not help the mentee deliver on their real priorities. This happens because mentees often turn up at mentoring meetings worrying about something immediate and urgent, and sometimes these issues do need discussing - but we always encourage mentors to resist being fully pulled into short-termism.

Mentors - help your mentees keep their eyes on the horizon, not just on next week.

Mentors help mentees to self-reflect.

Mentors will sometimes suggest tasks or actions for mentees to take to achieve their goals, but good mentors often lean into coaching by helping the mentee to take a step back and decide for themselves what might be the best way to achieve an objective. After all, a goal may stay the same but the route to achieving it may need to change with changing circumstances. #Self-reflection helps a mentee to hone their skills in noticing when a change of plan might be required and being able to make any changes mid-flight.

Mentors - helping your mentees develop #agility and #adaptability will help them develop key #leadership skills that can be hugely valuable in your or their organisation.

If you are considering developing a mentoring programme or leadership/ L&D programme with mentoring or coaching support for future or developing #business leaders, please come and talk to Kandu. We can help you get off to the best possible footing to ensure your mentoring programme is successful.

In return for a small investment per head, our software helps to support mentees and mentors to follow good mentoring practice - we encourage goal setting in pairs and mentee self- reflection - so they learn new skills just from using it. It also collects data on how they are progressing together to help programme administrators such as HR teams get real-time oversight on what is happening between mentor/ mentee pairs. Kandu also analyses this data to make recommendations for interventions to achieve the best possible programme return on investment. Contact hello@wekandu.io for more details and a demo.