As the mentoring program manager (MPM), you'll essentially be leading a group of mentors and mentorees over nine to 12 months. As such, it makes sense for MPMs to develop these three leadership skills.
1. Become a Better Active Listener
Active listening is a critical skill for everyone to learn, but especially anyone in a leadership position. Why? Because the most effective leaders are ones who know how to listen.
Now, you may be thinking that listening isn't a learned behavior, and that's true. But active listening is. Active listening involves paying attention to what the other person is saying and ignoring the mind chatter that inevitably happens in our heads.
Often times when we listen to someone, we're busy thinking about what we're going to say instead of focusing on what the other person is saying. This means we can miss vital information. With active listening, you learn to turn off (or at least turn down) that other noise and focus instead on the content of what the other person is saying. This takes practice.
Over the course of a year, you're bound to encounter mentors/mentorees in need and who want to talk (it happens, and it's normal). The best thing you can do is actively listen to the person.
Some active listening tips that help drown out the mind chatter and that show the person who is speaking that you're listening:
- Provide verbal validation, such as the occasional "yes" and "uh huh" or "I see."
- When appropriate, reiterate/repeat some of the things you've heard. This helps to clarify any misunderstanding and it helps validate the speaker. An example: "So if I'm hearing you correctly, you and your partner are finding it difficult to commit to weekly meetings. Does that sound right?"
- If meeting in person, make sure your nonverbal gestures are warm and inviting: make eye contact, uncross your arms, lean into the speaker (if appropriate/comfortable), and nod/shake your head.
2. Focus on the Positive
Don't underestimate the power of positivity, and keep in mind that the people you manage will be feeding off your energy. Wouldn't you rather the energy be positive?
Being positive doesn't mean you'll ignore reality. Let's face it: not all matches are going to be ideal, and even with "perfect" matches, conflicts might crop up along the way. But a positive leader chooses to approach any challenges with an optimistic, confident outlook instead of a negative or destructive one.
For example, mentors and mentorees can be nervous in the beginning. A positive MPM will reassures them that their feelings are normal, that they will diminish with time, and that if for some reason the feelings don't diminish, the MPM is there to help the pair navigate any issues.
3. Embrace Your Responsibility
If you want to be an effective leader, you need to practice what you preach. When it comes to mentoring, that means respecting people's time, filing forms in a timely manner, and honoring meeting commitments.
For example, as the MPM you'll likely stress to your mentors and mentorees about how important it is that they honor their every-other-week meetings. But if you're constantly canceling, rescheduling, or missing check-in meetings with the pairs you're managing, what sort of a message does that send? A mixed-message, at best.
Embrace the responsibilities that come with your role. By setting this good example, your people will learn to embrace the responsibilities that come with their roles.
Can you think of any other leadership qualities that MPMs should master? Share in the comments.
And if you're an MPM looking for additional tips and instruction, be sure to check out our online certification course for mentoring program managers.