As we all know, mentoring is about influence, guidance, and direction. It promotes the importance of knowledge sharing, collaboration, and community, supporting the great minds of tomorrow as they move forward and achieve their dreams, leveraging the experience of others who have already walked this similar pathway before them.
What many of us don’t always realise, however, is that when you work to develop a successful mentoring relationship, a mentor can do much more than just guide you towards a specific vision or goal. A great mentor – and a great relationship with that mentor – can play a huge role in how you build, develop, and maintain your presence as a strong female leader and an empowered woman within your industry.
Here’s how mentoring can walk you through the 6 essential steps that are needed to build and develop the winning mindset that many great leaders have in common:
1. Don’t Shy Away From Challenges
Think every question you pose to your mentor is easy for them to answer? Think again! Mentors are human; they aren’t able to whip up the perfect answer to everything. And yet they never turn around and say ‘I don’t know’. Instead, they face the challenge head-on and help you to arrive at the right answer for you. They encourage you to think about what your question means to you and your own journey, building an answer that can support your personal growth and career development. As a leader, you must do the same; you must develop a mindset that welcomes the unexpected and the unanswerable, and guides your team on a journey of discovery that helps them grow.
2. Learn to Look Beyond the Now
A factor that many people who are new to working with mentors are surprised to discover is that a good mentor won’t always be too focused on what’s taking place in the here and now – the current challenges and the problems that mentees are facing – and are instead more interested in looking at how these challenges could help to build resilience and strength for the future. This doesn’t mean they don’t care about the now, but demonstrates a commitment to getting you where you need to be. A good leader needs to do the same. A good leader must have a future-focused mindset that acknowledges where their team currently is, and gets them where they need to be.
3. Branch Out
If you’re working with a mentor who doesn’t seem 100% focused on what you do, it means that you’ve made the right choice. A good mentor shouldn’t be consumed only by your actions; they should be casting a wider net and looking beyond your activities to consider how these actions fit in with wider industry expectations and standards, searching for ways that you can adapt and improve. And as a great leader, you need the same sort of mindset. It’s important not to limit your focus just to the team itself but to also consider performance in terms of the bigger picture, making your team not just exceptional from a business perspective but from a broad industry perspective, too.
4. Be Confident in What You Say
One of the biggest surprises that many people have when working with a mentor is that their mentor will boldly say something that shocks them; that introduces a new perspective; that actively challenges their own ideas and perceptions; that maybe even disagrees with their point of view. It can be difficult to accept, but mentors know that their role isn’t to simply agree with their mentees; their role is to ensure they view all possibilities, avenues, and alternatives. As a leader, you know that your role is to support your team. But it’s important to remember that support doesn’t always equate to agreement. You must be confident in introducing new ideas and speaking up.
5. Admit Defeat
While we know that a good mentor will never shy away from a challenge, we also know that a good mentor will never go down the ‘fake it til you make it route’. In cases where a mentor may feel unqualified to provide the information you need, they would much rather refer to their network than unconfidently put forward information that may not be accurate or information that may not help you move forward towards your goal. And this ‘one person can’t do it all’ mindset is one of the most important qualities of a great leader. Even the best leaders don’t always know everything. But they do know that it’s OK to ask for help, to keep building their own knowledge, and welcome support.
6. Always be Learning & Adapting
While successful mentors are always proud to take credit for successes, they are equally as willing to accept responsibility for things that don’t quite go as planned. It’s a fact of life that not everything will go to plan, and when that happens, a great mentor will work to uncover what happened and use this information to their – and your – advantage. They adapt their approach to ensure they’re supporting their mentees in the best way possible. They keep going. And that’s what great leaders need to do, too. You’re not always going to lead your team to success. But that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you’ve given yourself an opportunity to learn, adapt, and grow as a leader.
The Importance of Developing a Winning Mindset
Imagine there are two teams that are exactly the same. Now imagine that each team is managed by a leader from the same background, with the same education, and with the same professional and personal experiences. Yet when faced with a challenge, the two leaders respond very differently. That’s all down to mindset.
When a leader has a losing mindset, they face challenges as barriers that prevent their team from moving forward. When a leader has a winning mindset, they face challenges as puzzles that they know there’s an answer to… they just need to find it.
A mentor’s role is to guide their mentee towards their goal, no matter what’s standing in the way. And there’s a lot we can all learn about great leadership from their actions.
Finding a Mentor
Finding a mentor can be difficult, especially as face-to-face interactions are tricky at this time. However, with the our Forward Ladies virtual platform, it’s easy to connect with amazing women online who can help you grow and develop, both personally and professionally. Try our platform for free for 14 days to access our handy guides and meet incredible mentors and mentees.