How do you become an effective mentor to your team? This article discusses three actions you can take as a leader.

Meet Yahaira Rose. At 19, Yahaira moved from Puerto Rico to the USA to attend college. Despite knowing little English, she eventually obtained a master's degree. Since then, Yahaira has dedicated her life to mentoring immigrants on a similar path to her own. The women she mentors also become mentors themselves. The result is that thousands of Latinx women are provided with resources to help them succeed and continue to pay it forward.

Yahaira's story is a powerful illustration of how good leaders can use their experiences to activate certain behaviors in individuals. Mentorship is a great way to give back, and teaching others is the best way to learn yourself. The result of good mentorship is solid and resilient teams accepting change.

This article explores three actions leaders can take to become more effective mentors.

1. Ask Meaningful Questions

Good questions fuel discovery. A good question goes further than a simple request for information. As a leader, the right questions are essential tools for communicating with your team members. 

Ask your team members thought-provoking questions. Don't ask questions to test them or catch them out. Instead, your questions should inspire them to apply critical, creative, and imaginative thinking to their work and challenges. 

Barry Kayton, one of Cognican's founders, says "Questions are one of the most powerful tools to activate people. When asked some questions, our minds respond immediately with an answer in a way that seems involuntary." 

Here are seven mentorship questions that you could ask individuals in your team: 

  1. What are your long- and short-term goals?
  2. What can do I to help you achieve your goals?
  3. What does success look like to you?
  4. Which areas do you feel you are good at and in which ones do you require more support?
  5. What are your obstacles to success? 
  6. What have you done to try to move past the above-mentioned obstacles? What worked and what didn't?
  7. Mentorship is a two-way street; what are some things you could teach me?

Using these questions as a guide, set yourself a challenge to connect with your team members about their individual professional goals. Then, explore some of the ways to help get them there with adequate benchmarks, progress check-ins, and workplace training. 

2. Share Stories and Reflections 

An important aspect of team building is sharing our stories and reflections. We learn more from reflecting than we do from practicing, so sharing our experiences with others is crucial for team learning. It is well understood that human brains have evolved to pay attention to and remember stories. Thus, stories are an essential tool for learning and change – a concept that is woven throughout each of our behavior change programs. 

If you have a team of people who are not activated in the way you need them to be, they're either hearing (or telling themselves) a story that keeps them from performing the required behavior. 

As a leader, you have probably experienced tough times. Think about that first failure or first successful outcome. Use this story to show your team members that you understand what they're going through and to help them navigate a particular challenge. 

3. Turn Conversations into Actions 

Another part of our methodology at Cognician is getting people to take action right away on what they've learned. Once you have started the conversation, keep it going! Talking about issues and concerns with an individual is the foundation of your mentoring relationship. However, talking only takes you so far. 

End every critical conversation with a commitment to take a specific action. Start small. By focusing on smaller, doable actions, your mentee will feel confident working toward larger goals

Each time you meet with your mentees, create a set agenda for your meeting. Consider the following structure:

  • What actions were taken since your last meeting?
  • What worked and what didn’t work?
  • Reflect on the “why” of your answers
  • Collaborate on ideas of what you could try next

Final thoughts

As Yahaira Rose strives to be the mentor she needed during her difficult transition as an immigrant, a good leader will develop their team by providing them with opportunities to learn and grow. Activate behavior change in your team by incorporating the three actions we discussed above.

If you are ready for more powerful actions you can take to become a better leader, sign up for a free trial of our Leadership Quest.