How to be the mentor that your team deserves

When starting a new position at a company. I’m sure most of us would relish if someone was able to show us the ropes. Directing us around the obstacles of the job. And putting us on the right path for success.

Did you have someone like that in your last position?

Most likely you had some sort of induction process where you were shown the location of the fire doors and the kitchen area. But when it came to getting the best out of you and explaining where you are going wrong. That most likely fell at your doorstep.

While it can be argued that it is the responsibility of the employee to ensure they are offering the best of their ability at the office. But it also in the interests of a company to better their workers through training, skills advancement, and mentorship.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is essentially giving back what you have already received.

Best summed up by Amara Anyogu, “Mentoring can be defined as a personal development relationship where a more experienced and knowledgeable person (mentor) teaches or guides a less knowledgeable or experienced person (mentee).”

Mentors do not see mentees as just another employee or resource. But as a person, with their own external struggles and difficulties that lie in the way of them reaching their potential.

As a mentor, you have already been around the block. You know how to succeed and your relationship with a mentee needs to be built on that prior experience. Empowering the mentee with the knowledge and ability to perform at their very best.

In other words. It is about using your expertise as a mentor. To give knowledge and advice, laying the foundations for successful growth and a bright future career.

What qualities should a mentor have?

Above all, mentors need a commitment to the role they have taken on. It’s not fair for a mentee to be without their mentor after a few weeks because they lost interest. Not only does that convey a lack of respect to your mentee about the relationship. But also shows that you aren’t serious enough to have a mentor position.

That commitment goes beyond being a mentor purely when it’s convenient. Mentors should be at the service of their mentees. Always ready to provide honest advice, quality feedback, and importantly. Listening to their concerns, questions, or requests for advice.

Being able to listen well is a skill that is taken for granted in society. We all say we’re listening to someone’s problems. But really all we’re doing is waiting for the opportunity to chime in with our own advice.

But to listen to our mentees well. We need to take a step back, process what they are saying. Think about the details with an open mind, and then come back with our own opinions and valuable insights.

And those opinions need to be rooted in compassion and understanding of our mentees own position. It’s no good arguing with someone to get your point across. Most of us have been in that situation before and have seen that it doesn’t change points of view.

So be patient with your mentee. Things may not be going the way you want them to go at times. This may result in tempers flaring. But realize that is often no easy fixes.

Why would I want to become a mentor?

“But why would I want to use up my time helping to mentor someone?”, you might be thinking.

“Can’t they just learn the way I did?”

From a company’s point of view. It makes sense to have a mentorship program for your staff. Not only does it help them grow and be able to perform well in their positions with you. But if they see that you are investing in them. They are more likely to stick around and be loyal.

And then on individual team levels (taking software testing teams as an example). New testers, especially junior testers. Aren’t likely to know much about the various testing techniques (e.g. black-box, white-box), or how to write a bug report. Mentoring provides them with the knowledge they need to know to not only be better testers. But also enhance your current test teams effectiveness.

But ultimately the reason why you should find someone to mentor. Is because it feels good.

Giving back and providing someone with the knowledge and guidance that you didn’t have makes for increased job satisfaction, more effective teams and happier employees.

Posted by Kevin Tuck

Kevin Tuck is an ISTQB qualified software tester with nearly a decade of professional experience. Well versed in creating versatile and effective testing strategies. He offers a variety of collaborative software testing services. From managing your testing strategy, creating valuable automation assets, or serving as an additional resource.

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