Your business is only as good as the people working there. And if you want your technology team to be more than a collection of talented people, you need to nurture them through strategic mentorship.

The Secrets Behind Successful Mentorship

Mentorship is something that people talk about a lot in the business world, but it’s important to understand what a mentor is and what it is not.

HubSpot defines it like this: “At its core, being a mentor is being a trusted advisor. Being a mentor involves making yourself available to support and advise someone when they need it, delivering that support in a way that makes sense to them, and always keeping that person’s best interests in mind.”

Pay careful attention to the words in bold. Anyone can say they’re mentoring an individual, but if these words don’t ring true, it’s probably not a very valuable mentorship relationship.

Mentorship is not manipulation. It’s not a relationship designed to stroke your ego and make you feel important. It’s a two-way, mutual engagement where you’re adding value to the mentee as a way of investing in someone else.

For business leaders, mentoring various members of your tech team – the ones in whom you see the most skill and potential – has the chance to propel your business and set the organization up for sustainable success. 

Not sure where to begin? We have some practical insights and principles for you:

1. Select the Right People

It’s possible to care for each person on your technology team without directly “mentoring” each and every one of them. And depending on the size of your team, it might not be possible to be a mentor to each person.

Be on the lookout for prime mentorship candidates. These are people who are:

·      Self-starters

·      Good listeners

·      Humble (enough to accept advice and criticism)

·      Young (people generally become less receptive to teaching as they age)

As the popular saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” You can’t force people into mentorship. Either they want your guidance and wisdom, or they don’t.

2. Use Hands-On Teaching

You can impart a lot of wisdom through words, but few methods of instruction are more effective than hands-on teaching.

Whether you’re telling someone how to write code or debug software, actually get down in the weeds with them. This does two things: (1) it increases their ability to absorb the knowledge, and (2) it shows that you care enough to get involved.

3. Empower Team Members

Coaches and mentors often make the mistake of thinking it’s their job to identify and solve every problem on behalf of their team members and mentees. However, this is a warped view of the relationship.

One of the best things you can do is empower your team members to solve their own problems. Don’t micromanage. Step back and let them fight for answers and solutions. Not only does this give them more tangible learning opportunities, but it also frees up time in your schedule to mentor others and/or focus on other high-level issues.

4. Allow for Mistakes

When you use hands-on teaching and empower team members to tackle problems on their own, you’re not always going to get perfect results – and that’s okay. In fact, you should be cognizant enough of the power of failure to allow for mistakes to happen.

Obviously there’s a difference between a mistake that damages the company’s reputation and one that simply teaches someone a valuable lesson. It’s your responsibility to foresee possible issues and guide your team in a way that mistakes are isolated and constructive.

5. Be a Good Listener

Mentorship isn’t about spitting out as many words as you possibly can. It’s often about listening, absorbing, and waiting for the right opportunity to speak.

If you want to be a high-value mentor – someone who creates a positive impact within your team – you have to embrace the art of listening and patiently wait for the right cues.

6. Go Beyond Technical Mentorship

In this industry, there’s obviously one element of mentorship that involves imparting technical wisdom and insights. This would be the “teaching” half of the equation. But this is only a small part of the bigger picture. So make sure you’re going above and beyond to “empower” your people.

Think about the specific ways in which you can make the people around you better – better thinkers, better communications, better dreamers, better creatives, etc. This is how you make a real difference in the lives of other people.

7. Provide Clear Communication Preferences

Part of being a good mentor is being accessible to the people you’re coaching. From a very practical standpoint, make sure you’re providing clear communication preferences so they can reach you.

How do you want to be reachable? Do you want people to set up physical meetings in your office? Or would you prefer to be reached remotely whenever possible?

If you prefer to be reached remotely, what kind of digital outreach do you prefer? Video, phone, email, text?

It’s also helpful to set your “hours.” Some mentors are so committed that they have a 24/7/365 policy. Others like to limit their availability so they can create some healthy separation between work and personal life.

8. Nudge, Don’t Mandate

As a mentor, it’s not your role to mandate people to do things. You shouldn’t be barking out orders and demanding people follow specific instructions. Your role is much gentler. Think of it as your responsibility to nudge and coax people into the appropriate direction. By and large, people respond much better to this latter approach.

ZAGA to the Rescue

At ZAGA, we believe that in life and business, learning is something that never goes out of fashion. The more you surround yourself with skilled people who have the ability to impart wisdom, the more successful you’ll become. And that’s why we nurture an organizational culture that’s committed to continued learning and constant improvement. 

If your organization believes in similar principles and values, we would love to connect. ZAGA offers industry-leading nearshore development that’s reliable, convenient, and cost-effective. Please contact us today to learn more!