A mentoring programme is a great way for businesses to develop their staff. Experienced mentors David Bryson, Senior Legal Counsel at Baillie Gifford & Co and Christopher Morgan, Senior Legal Counsel at The Weir Group PLC give their top seven tips for mentors.
We are part of the Law Society’s career mentoring scheme which offers students, trainee solicitors, accredited paralegals and solicitors a chance to manage and develop their careers. The scheme has over 60 active mentor/mentee relationships. Even experienced mentors have the opportunity to keep on learning and both the mentee and the mentor should be gaining from the relationship. Here’s our top seven tips for mentors (and mentees might find them helpful too)
- Spot the real issue
Be prepared for mentees not disclosing their real issues until a relationship is truly established, this could be at a third session or even later. So you just need to listen - you might be the first person that has really listened to the mentee on the topic. You should check for underlying issues because the mentee may present a particular challenge, but the real issue may initially be hidden.
- Be flexible
You might have planned to work on something with the mentee but be prepared for them to surprise you with a new issue! This is fine, as you are looking to help the mentee with the most important / urgent challenge that they currently face.
- They are not your clone!
Try not to impose a solution that might have worked for you onto the mentee. Remember it is the mentee’s challenge not yours. Giving advice is sometimes OK and appropriate in some situations, and whilst not quite a last resort, it shouldn’t be the mentor’s first port of call. They need to work it out for themselves.
- Ask for feedback
You can sometimes feel that the conversations as a mentor are not useful. If this happens, it is worth asking the mentee for feedback to determine if that is the case from their perspective. If the mentee says that the meetings are useful, be sure to probe around why that is, as the answers may surprise you.
- Check in
Sometimes a mentee may be reluctant to get back in touch if there has been a passage of time without contact. Usually mentors tend to let the mentee take the initiative but they may be reticent to re-engage. Therefore, mentors should take the chance to check in with their ‘dormant’ mentees as it may re-focus the relationship.
- End game
Breaking the relationship is challenging, but as you are giving up your own time to be a mentor, it must work for you too. That’s why it is so important to set the expectations at the very beginning of the mentoring relationship. Talk about ‘no fault ending’ and establish regular reviews to emphasise the right of both parties right to walk away. This makes any conversation about ending the relationship slightly easier to handle when it arises.
- Get closure
It can be difficult for the mentor to be deeply involved in a mentee’s challenge and then suddenly to be dropped by the mentee once the challenge is overcome. Therefore, at the very beginning, you should make it clear to the mentee that you would be keen to hear how they get on after the mentoring relationship has ended. That way, you can both get closure.
David and Christopher attend regular ‘developmental coaching for mentors’ sessions (formerly known as mentor support and supervision) as part of our mentoring programme. During the session experienced mentors discuss mentoring issues, facilitated by an experienced external coach. David and Christopher believe that despite being experienced mentors, there is always more to learn, and continuing to work and develop your skills in this area is hugely important.
Read more about our career mentoring programme
David Bryson is Senior Legal Counsel at Baillie Gifford & Co and is a Vice Convener of our In-House Lawyers' Committee. David received a Highly Commended Mentor Award from the Scottish Mentoring Network in 2017. Christopher Morgan is Senior Legal Counsel at The Weir Group PLC.