Categories: Career Help, Careers, Collaboration, Communication, Continuous Learning, Human Aspects of PM, Leadership, Mentoring, SelfLeadership, Sharing Knowledge, Talent Management
By Yasmina Khelifi, PMP, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA
Whether it’s for a volunteer association or a corporate organization, mentorship can help you learn and grow as a leader. The topic comes up a lot as I speak to different professionals and here are some of the lessons learned I’ve gained on the subject—both as a mentor and as a mentee:
1. Don’t rely only on corporate programs.
A few years ago, I began taking part in a corporate mentoring program. I’d been waiting for it and saw it as a silver bullet—giving me all the answers to my career questions. Going into it with so many expectations, it’s not surprising that I was disappointed. Still, it’s still worth inquiring if corporate programs exist in your firm and exploring how to benefit from them—plus, you can become a mentor yourself. Just don’t make it the only avenue you pursue.
2. Be open to mentorship from unexpected places.
When I first began leading projects, a colleague gave me some advice during the meeting: "Perhaps you should have said that instead of this.” At the time, I didn’t understand he was acting as a mentor to me. And in hindsight, I wish I’d been more grateful to him for his advice and that I’d spoken with him more regularly. It was a missed opportunity and a lesson on being open to taking direction.
3. Set the ground rules.
This is particularly important if the mentors are in your work environment. Some areas to explore are:
- Duration and frequency of meetings
- Constraints: In the corporate program I mentioned, the mentee was supposed to organize the meeting, but my mentor was very busy and had to cancel sometimes.
4. Keep your word.
At the beginning of this year, a young colleague asked me if I wanted to be her mentor. I admired her courage to ask and I wish I’d done the same at the beginning of my career. So I accepted without hesitation.
We talked once a month on the phone and I tried to answer her questions as best I could. I was consistent—and that’s important. As a mentor—and a mentee—you must be reliable: When a meeting is planned, stick to it, remain present and don’t multitask throughout.
5. Don’t give up.
In one of my work projects, I talked with a top manager with global experience. When I dared to ask him to become my mentor, I didn’t receive an answer. But that doesn’t mean you should just surrender: You can knock on other doors that will open. And eventually you’ll be part of a community where you can exchange ideas and build bridges to knowledge sharing.
How do you encourage mentorship within your project teams?