Mentoring

IMPMO: Mentoring Part I: The makings of a great mentor

In My Project Manager’s Opinion – After spending a refreshing day jam-packed with illuminating information from T.E.R.P. Associates’ Mentor’s Journey program, I was inspired to write about the importance of mentoring, especially in the project management field. Incorporating mentorship within the workforce has never been more essential. I’ve been mentored by many folks throughout my career in healthcare management and project management. Some of my mentors have been in the same organization I worked, and other mentors were outside of my place of work. And not all of my mentors were older than me. I’ve had a mentor who was younger than me but had work and life experiences that I admired and wanted to learn more about.

Though my mentors have been diverse in their positions and experiences, they all demonstrated similar characteristics that inspired me and left me with the desire to mentor others. The major traits of my great mentors consisted of the following:

  • Made our conversation a priority. One of the most valued characteristics of a great mentor for me was that they made time for me. The great mentors made our conversations a priority and carved out time. If there were schedule conflicts, they made it a point to let me know well ahead of time (of course emergencies happened). I never felt rushed or the time was an imposition.
  • Open about setbacks, not just successes. While my interest in seeking a mentor is based on their career success and achievements, I am humbled by the fact that my mentors shared with me the setbacks they experienced in their careers. I’ve had mentors who shared with me all of their wonderful successes but they also were open and forthcoming about the failures they endured, the disappointment they had to overcome, and persistence they withstood to achieve their success. Do an Internet search for the “Iceberg Illusion of Success” and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Listened—a lot. While the primary goal in having a mentor is to learn firsthand how they achieved their career growth and successes, I saw so much growth in myself when my mentors wanted to hear from me. The mentors who actively listened to my ideas and were curious about my perspective. In some cases, I had great ideas that my mentors wanted to implement for themselves. They saw me as a resource for growth and learning as well.

Of course there are many other characteristics that make a great mentor, however, I have found these characteristics are what I value most in a great mentor.

Mentoring is not about making somebody be just like you. If that is the stance you take, maybe mentoring is not a right fit, because you as the mentor and your mentee may grow frustrated as there may be a clash of ideas and your mentee may not always follow your guidance.

And becoming a mentor is not something that you go into lightly. Many experienced, seasoned professionals are sought after for their time and wisdom to mentor; however, those same individuals are inundated with requests to mentor along with their daily demands of work and family.

So, why do it?

I think about how I got to where I am in my career right now. There was someone who impacted my success, who invested extra time and effort in showing me the ropes. And I was so grateful for the opportunity to learn from them. I would like to do the same for someone else.

Are you in? Do you have the makings of a great mentor? Below are some considerations for mentoring—the choice is yours:

Structured or unstructured? Formal or informal? Keep in mind, the more structured and formal programs tend to have documentation requirements and look for measures of success. On the flipside, less structured programs can be too open-ended for both parties.

How long will this relationship last? A good mentor/mentee bond will be ongoing, even after the regular meetings and level of commitment slowly dissipates. It is up to you and your mentee to define this timeline, whether it is 6 months, a year or longer. This depends on your availability and ability to commit for an extended period of time.

Do I need to establish boundaries and “ground rules”? Yes! Develop the parameters of the relationship between you and your mentee, such as establishing boundaries (are weekend’s fair game?), how you will communicate with each other, when and where, so that expectations are clear on both sides.

If being a mentor is a calling for you, I encourage you to make the investment in the success of someone else. As a more experienced project management professional and consultant, I’ve seen that being a mentor is the opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ and contribute to the growth and development of the next generation of leaders.

Crystal Richards is the Principal & Owner of Mosaic Resource Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping project management professionals better themselves in all things project management, communications, and leadership. Crystal provides training and professional development for people who manage projects from the novice project manager to the senior project leader.

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How to contact Crystal: ☏ 240-203-9177 ✉ info@mosaicrg.com.

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