Source: Fast Company
Author: Art Markman

Organizations thrive when people share their knowledge and experiences. That means that you should always be on the lookout for people who know things (and know how to do things) that you don’t to seek their help. It also means that you should be available to mentor others.

If you’re going to mentor someone, though, there are three key things you need to do to make that relationship successful:

1. Watch and ask

When you’re mentoring someone, it’s important to really get to know them. After all, when you’re trying to help someone else achieve their goals, you need to know two key things: What are their strengths and weaknesses now, and what are they hoping to achieve in the future?

Having that information requires some work on your part. When you’re working with a mentee, find some time to see them in their native habitat. Attend meetings with them. Watch their work habits and how they present themselves to others. You can learn a lot about people by being a patient observer.

You also want to ask questions. Find out what your mentee’s goals are. Talk about what they see as their own successes and struggles. Ask a lot of questions about why they do things the way they do. The answers to these questions will give you hooks on which you hang the information and advice you provide.

2. Coach, don’t tell

There’s a temptation to dive in and share your wisdom, experience, and knowledge with a mentee. It is best to think of yourself as a coach rather than an advisor. If you have ever played a sport, you know that a coach has two key roles: Coaches have to help players to refine their skills and to provide strategy for success in game situations.

When a coach teaches a skill, it’s not enough just to describe that skill, because ultimately, it is the player who has to execute that skill. Similarly, you are trying to influence the actions of a mentee. So, you need to give them chances to practice what they’re learning, rather than just having them listen to your sage words. If you are mentoring someone in sales, then suggest some strategies and let your mentee practice on you. Give them a chance to make mistakes in a safe environment before they have to do it for real.

3. Give the right kind of advice

Certainly, there will be times when you advise your mentee. But, there are many different kinds of advice. You could hear a problem they are facing and suggest what you would do in that situation. You might advise for or against a particular option. You might recommend how to go about making a decision. You might also provide information that your mentee would not have considered.

Studies suggest that the best kind of advice is information. A great way to help your mentee is to share suggestions about kinds of information that your mentee does not already know about. This kind of advice expands your mentee’s horizons and enables them to consider factors that they would not have been aware about otherwise.