Becoming a mentor and coaching someone for the first time can be exciting, but you may be unsure of how to get the ball rolling and start building a relationship with your newfound mentee.
Six entrepreneurs offer their best practices for new mentors on working with and making the most of your mentee relationships.
Don't be afraid to seek their advice, too.
Elle Kaplan, CEO and founding partner of wealth management firm LexION Capital, understands that mentorship is a two-way street.
"Having your mentee respect and value you means respecting and valuing their opinions too, so don't be afraid to switch the roles every once in awhile," she says. "I've found that for everything I teach to others, I always receive valuable lessons tenfold."
Kaplan believes one of the best ways to instill confidence and leadership in a young mentee is for the mentor to shed light all the valuable insights they themselves offer.
Have them challenge your ideas.
In addition to seeking out the unique value your mentee can bring to the table, make sure the person understands that they shouldn't feel pressured to take your word as gospel.
"Mentoring is not about transferring wisdom to an eager recipient whose role is to absorb your advice without question," says Vik Patel, CEO of VPS hosting service Future Hosting. "When mentees analyze and challenge me, I'm forced to rethink and reframe my understanding in ways that make me better at my job."
Patel recommends encouraging mentees to challenge anything they don't otherwise agree with or understand.
Respect personal boundaries.
While becoming more comfortable with one another is encouraged, it's important to know when (and where) to draw the line.
"It's so easy to get wrapped up in swapping personal stories, but learn to keep it professional until you've built enough of a relationship with the new mentee," says Bryanne Lawless, owner of PR agency BLND Public Relations. "You are setting aside time to be helpful to someone, so use that time wisely. Your time and their time are equally valuable."
Step down from your pedestal.
Earlier this year, Natalie MacNeil, CEO of female entrepreneurship empowerment business She Takes on the World, had the unique opportunity of spending time on Necker Island with Sir Richard Branson and a group of fellow entrepreneurs.
"The thing that stood out to me the most in our interactions with him was that he didn't put himself on a pedestal at all," says MacNeil. "He treated everyone as his equal. He listened, and asked us for opinions and ideas too." While you may have achieved great success in your career, getting off your high horse and leveling the playing field will help the conversation flow more naturally.
Remember when you were just starting out.
If you're struggling to establish common ground with your new mentee, John Hall, CEO of content marketing agency Influence & Co., recommends thinking back to the time when you were in their shoes.
"I remember my first job as a door-to-door popcorn salesman (yes, popcorn)," he recalls. "I was so eager and excited. It never hurts to remember a time when you were a little less jaded, more impressionable, and more eager to please and succeed."
Hall believes channeling this mindset will help you understand your new mentee's vision and will in turn help you become a better mentor.
Take it one step at a time.
If you're new to the mentorship game, you may be tempted to dump all of your learnings and advice into one session. Instead, break these out into snackable takeaways that can be more easily absorbed by your mentee.
"Too often, I see new mentors overload the individuals they are training," says Russell Kommer, president of software development company eSoftware Associates Inc. "When a trainee is overloaded with information, they have a harder time processing the material, which leads to a slower learning time."
Kommer recommends ensuring that your company's mentors teach trainees in an orderly, step-by-step process.