February 10, 2020
by Dan Abel
Mentoring is essential to how we work at Tes engineering. Let's take a look at at the value of mentoring and ways you can structure a mentor chat.
A mentor offers help in these key areas:
👂 Be a person to speak to and listen
👐 Offer support and comfort in times of stress
🧭 Help people navigate the organisation
🏋🏻 Help people grow capability
🎆 Celebrate success!
Being a mentor can bring lots of value.
You get to:
📤 Share your experience
🏗️ See people grow and see how people grow
👁️ Gain insight and 🗨 empathy
Practicing these skills are part of learning to play a more senior role.
Mentoring starts with conversation. It revolves around having regular chats with the person you are mentoring. These chats might be a free-style catch-up, or follow a questioning structure. Maybe the right conversation needs structure to help with growth.
Chats should be dynamic and adaptive. Mentors may choose a format to suit the situation and the mentee's needs, but they should also be listening to check its working for their mentee. Be ready to stop and reassess if you have the right format for the conversation.
There are a couple of formats I've found really useful to lean on to get a chat going and to build shared knowledge and rapport.
Catch-ups are great to keep remote and timezone distributed people in the loop:
🎁 Share what’s going on in your world / team
🐢 See where the conversation takes you
👂 Keep listening
The 4 questions structure is great to help someone gain a different perspective and talk things through. It's my go-to choice.
⚕️ How are you?
👍 What’s good?
👎 What’s not so good?
🧩 Is there something we have not talked about that we should?
Growth and skills based conversations are best when supported by goals or a direction.
We support the growth of our staff through engineering skills-maps and 6 monthly reviews to help our people think how they would like to grow. Mentors can then assist in finding ways forward.
🗺️ Look at progression and acquisition
🛣️ Ask them about how to progress a step
🚧 Discuss blockers
🎊 Throw in a good challenge
I've found this style also works well for on-boarding and supporting new joiners learning about their role, and how things function.
Key to helping someone grow at work is first helping them feel safe and happy. No one can learn much without this. Mentoring conversations should start by helping someone into this position.
Beyond that, you, as a mentor need to build rapport and trust, so you can be told and tell critical information that might otherwise go unsaid.
Active Listening is a great way to do this, as well as a way to learn and guide without dominating a conversation.
There's a lot more to the power and value of mentoring, and there is a lot of depth in the ways you can use conversations to support guide and grow.
Hopefully these patterns will get you started.