I've been mentoring in business for at least two decades. It's all part of the leadership role: communicating ideas in a one-on-one conversation, dealing with any issues with one particular employee without other distractions, and pushing a project forward by creating mutual understanding one person at a time. Without making mentoring a big part of your job, there's a good chance someone in your company has a dartboard with your face on it. Here's a few methods to avoid that kind of predicament and lead more effectively.
1. Give a tall order
One strategy I've used with those I'm mentoring is to assign a fairly difficult task to complete--something that will require my involvement. I don't see mentoring as just a weekly chat. It's an ongoing relationship and one that should always be moving toward a specific goal. It has to be intentional and specific, not vague and by the seat of your pants. Keep track of the task together and use it as a teaching aid.
2. Provide highly detailed steps
I like the image of a servant-leader who is standing next to an employee, guiding him or her toward a goal, serving as an instructor as much as a boss. To make that happen, be as specific as possible. In my mentoring, I've tried to avoid being the wise sage who only dispenses advice and tried to be more like a basketball coach who shows the plays.
3. For every criticism, encourage three times
Mentoring is an act of fanning the flame of someone to do better and excel at work. Be careful with how much you criticize, because that can discourage growth. To avoid that, encourage at least three times for every criticism. I tend to spend a lot of time praising, encouraging, and motivating. Specifically, when I'm mentoring other writers, I try to point out as many positives as possible. This seems to work much better than correcting.
4. Don't run from conflict
Due to the personal nature of mentoring, there will be times when you will have conflict. It will get personal. The key is to always maintain a professional attitude and one of self-sacrifice. This is about the person being mentored moving on to greater heights; the padawan will probably hurt your feelings, but that's what makes them a padawan. Overlook it and focus on encouraging growth.
5. Forget the jargon
I have a tendency to speak in a more advanced "business tongue" at times that assumes people know what I'm talking about. As a mentor, you might fall into that trap because you are supposed to be the wise one with the answers. It's better to avoid complicated terms and explain everything in more detail; otherwise, you run the risk of making the person being mentored think the real goal is just to sound learned, not to be learned.
6. Reveal your humanness
Perhaps the best strategy in mentoring is to be yourself. Let the person you are mentoring see your faults, your mistakes, and your weaknesses. Ironically, by revealing that you are human, you might be teaching your pupil the best lesson of all.