askST Jobs: What makes a good mentor at work?

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askST Jobs: What makes a good mentor at work?

Tay Hong Yi
27 Feb 2023

SINGAPORE – In this series, manpower reporter Tay Hong Yi offers practical answers to candid questions on navigating workplace challenges and getting ahead in your career.

Q: I was tasked with mentoring new team members. What might I need to impart to them?

A: Good mentoring needs rapport and respect between both the mentor and mentee, said Dr David Leong, managing director of human resources advisory firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting.

Mentors should be approachable and available to answer questions and provide guidance, he said.

To effectively transfer knowledge, they need to communicate clearly, with simple and concise language, in a structured manner, said Dr Leong.

Mentors should also provide hands-on experience to mentees, allowing them to practice what they have learnt.

“This could involve working on real-life projects, completing simulations or exercises, or participating in role-playing scenarios.”

Dr Leong added that mentors should provide regular feedback to help mentees gauge their progress, while encouraging continuous improvement. And they should set goals and milestones for the mentee to achieve.

“They should also be open to receiving feedback from the mentee and adjusting their approach as necessary.”

Mr Paul Heng, managing director of NeXT Career Consulting Group, said: “Support or mentoring usually covers three main topics: job tasks; learning about the company culture and how things work, or do not work; and facilitating introductions and connections to stakeholders of the new team member.”

He added: “Wanting to be a mentor and the willingness to be a mentee does not guarantee effective mentoring will happen.

“Both parties have to see benefits from the arrangements, and both must be willing to allocate quality time, as well as put in the effort to make the mentoring work.”

Goals for the new team member to work towards should be set out, and the relationship should last for a defined period of time, such as six months, he said.

Mr Heng also said that the goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

However, he acknowledged that there are worthy goals for a mentor to help a new team member work on yet are difficult to quantify, such as managing challenging colleagues.

In these cases mentors can ask mentees to rate how effectively they feel they achieve the goals on a scale of one to 10 at the beginning and end of the mentoring journey, with 10 being the desired outcome.

“If the rating is higher, then it can be deemed to be a success,” said Mr Heng.

He also advised mentors to reflect on what they wish to learn from the mentoring relationship.

This could include learning more about how younger colleagues make decisions, or the opinions of younger colleagues on business strategy.

However, effective mentoring can occur only if companies equip mentors with the resources and time to do so, not merely assigning mentors to new team members on paper.

“It has to be a deliberate process where adequate training is provided to both mentors and mentees,” said Mr Heng.

“Leaders must understand, believe and embrace the benefits of mentoring for effective mentoring to happen. Communication, support and active encouragement are all necessary.”

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