Yesterday I attended the amazing SoCraTes in Zurich. Based on recent events I moderated a session about Mentoring.
A few weeks ago 2 work colleagues reached out to me individually and asked me if I would be their mentor. My first reaction was, oh WOW! 🤩 I reacted with: "Yes sure!". I think both of them are already capable software engineers and we could learn from each other. I would definitely learn a few things about mentoring.
I asked the 2 mentee the following questions for our first get together. (I met them separately 1:1 by the way)
- What is your long term goal?
- Which pathway do you see to this goal?
- What do you see between now and this goal?
An attendee of the session raised a quite interesting additional question:
Do you see an alignment with the company goals?
As an example it would be weird if you want to become a great iOS developer when your company is not doing any mobile apps at all and not having any plans to get there. (Considering the mentor-ship is under the hood of the company.)
We discussed on the differences about coaching and mentoring. We see the following differences:
- A coach does not have to be an expert in the field.
- A coaching could be a shorter interaction between two people.
- Coaching is mainly asking the right questions to bring out the already existing knowledge in the person which gets coached.
- A coach helps to keep on track.
- A coach usually does not provides explicit suggestions.
The main focus is: progress
- A mentor-ship is a longer relationship.
- A mentor should know the topic.
- The mentee gets guided to the goal.
The main focus is: knowledge
A mentor-mentee relationship gets mostly formed with the consent of both persons.
A mentee mostly chooses the mentor based on knowledge and even more important the values she/he stands for and lives.
In my opinion a mentor should see potential and a trustworthy relationship in the mentee.
The word relashionship defines the collaboration quite well. The discussed topics are sometimes private and it has to be based on trust. This is only achievable if both parties see it that way. The collaboration has to be worked on. As Simon Sinek described it perfectly: there is no swipe right on a relashionship, it is hard work. Simon Sinek: Millenials at the Workplace
- Do not push yourself on top of the mentee. The wish of help has to be requested verbally.
- Consider having regular 1:1 if yo. Be careful about too forced session though. When working in the same team try to build up the relationship and the mentoring throughout the day. Use practices like pair programming, code reviews, pair designing, and so on.
- Help finding a right way, yours may not be the only one.
- Bring up obvious things not seen by the mentee.
- Lead by asking questions and support if there is no answer.
- It should be an open relationship formed upon trust. This could evolve over time and is quite often based upon shared values.
- Practice direct and open feedback.
I realized that today the people who were my mentors (the relationship was mostly build quite informal) are nowadays my challenge buddies. I respect them, and respect their opinion. Therefore I often ask them for their open opinion on some work I did to improve it and learn. They do the same.
Invest in such relationships, they are worth the time!