Mentoring direct reports, the difficulties and how to overcome them

When a direct report has a mentor, they will need support and encouragement from their line manager. Practical ways, in which you can help, include:

  • Being generous with the time you allow them to take for meetings with their mentor. You would normally encourage them to attend relevant training programmes. Mentoring provides immediate, just-in-time development for a much smaller investment in time.
  • Offer suggestions about topics they might wish to discuss with their mentor, but expect them to make their own mind up about whether they do so
  • Remember that the content of the mentoring conversations is private and that you should not attempt to break that confidentiality
  • Be open to conversations with the direct report about new learning opportunities they could take on. Consider what tasks you could delegate to them, with a view to their development
  • Encourage them to spend time reflecting before and after the mentoring session
  • Be tolerant of ideas they bring back from their mentoring conversations and try not to pour cold water on them
  • Be careful not to use the mentoring relationship as an excuse to put less effort into your responsibilities for their development. If anything, you may need to have more developmental sessions than before, because of the pace of change in the mentee’s thinking and aspirations. Regularly review with them their self-development plan
  • Recognise that mentoring often results in people raising their horizons and that this may mean they are now looking for new challenges, which their current role can’t give them. Be glad of their ambitions, embrace the fact that this helps establish your reputation as a developer of talent, and engage them in helping you prepare a successor for their role, when they move on.

© David Clutterbuck. All rights reserved

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