5 Signs an Employee Is Ready for Your Mentorship
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, philanthropist, or community leader, mentorship is an excellent opportunity to share the educational fruits of your labor. Becoming a mentor allows you to guide an employee through the knowledge, skill sets, and experience necessary to continue climbing the corporate ladder. But how do you know if an employee is ready for this next step?
Identifying a potential mentee can be a life-changing decision — both for you and the employee you mentor. If you’re deciding whether an employee is ready for your mentorship, consider these five signs.
1. Are They Ambitious?
Early in their careers, many C-suite executives are described by coworkers, colleagues, and management as “go-getter,” “bootstrapper,” and “aspiring CEO.” When determining if an employee is prepared for mentorship, keep an eye out for similar qualities. A clear indicator that an employee is suitable for mentorship is ambition.
Many entry- to mid-level employees require a formal process to assume leadership responsibilities or extend themselves beyond their comfort zone. Others have a natural talent for stepping outside their knowledge-silo to push themselves further. If you notice a specific team member guiding junior employees or planning strategically without your guidance, it may be time for you to allow them to flex those skills more regularly, with your oversight.
Ambitious employees frequently seek out additional roles and responsibilities. However, it’s essential to differentiate an ambitious employee from a team member who doesn’t understand when to stop if their plate is full. The desire to learn new skills and progress internally is vital, but a single, overwhelmed employee can negatively impact the team as a whole. A potential mentee should be ambitious, but still possess the emotional intelligence to understand when they’re pushing themselves too hard.
2. Have They Already Shown Potential?
The most successful CEOs and founders aren’t always trailblazers right out the gate — take Jeff Bartel of Miami, for example. Currently a dominant business and corporate leader, entrepreneur, and high-impact philanthropist in South Florida, Jeff Bartel began his career in appointive government service in local government and then in Washington, D.C. Congress. From there, he became a senior partner at two of Florida’s top law firms and then as a top executive and corporate officer at Fortune 200 companies.
Jeff Bartel is now the chairman and managing director of Hamptons Group, a private capital, real estate investment, and strategic advisory firm. He’s also part of the adjunct faculty at two universities, where he teaches life and business strategy courses to MBA and law students. His advice to students and potential mentors? View potential through progress.
Potential is shown holistically, beyond a mentee’s daily duties. The more an employee is granted opportunities to grow and hone their skills, the more they’ll inevitably progress at their jobs. Keep an eye on mini-milestones, such as:
- A decrease in pauses or fillers while presenting or speaking publicly
- Actively engaging during team meetings, such as pitching in new ideas
- Questioning the “why” behind goals or tasks
The more an employee grows, the more their potential is apparent. Incremental progress is a sign an employee might be ready for your mentorship.
3. Do They Have a Positive Attitude?
Aside from work ethic and ability, attitude is a significant factor in overall success. An employee’s attitude dictates their working relationship with team members and stakeholders. Where a positive-outlook employee will actively problem solve and compromise, a negative one will likely be slim on contributions and play poorly with others.
A potential mentee with a positive attitude will ask questions such as, “How can I help?” or “What can we do better?” A potential mentee with a negative attitude is more inclined to pass the blame, asking, “Who can fix this?” or “Can we ditch this initiative?” Consider which of the two would be more impactful in the boardroom: an employee who wants the team to succeed, or an employee who acts discouraged in the face of stress?
Even with a fantastic skillset, an employee with a negative attitude is simply not suited for mentorship. Not only are they less likely to accept your wisdom and recommendations, but they can also have a negative impact on your desire to mentor, teach, and lead both them and others.
4. Do You Have a Good Working Relationship?
If all signs thus far have pointed towards mentorship, it’s time to question the working relationship between you and the potential mentee. You don’t have to know the employee in question incredibly well. In fact, you don’t even have to consider yourselves close. What’s more important is that you work well with one another.
Consider it this way: You’ll inevitably learn more about each other and your respective processes the more you work alongside one another. Therefore, even if you start the mentorship with a few questions, chances are, you’ll grow closer as your relationship progresses. The signs you should pay closer attention to are whether or not the two of you have the ability to:
- Communicate well
- Give and receive feedback
- Reciprocate positive attitudes
- Openly ask questions
5. Do They Understand the Value of Mentorship?
The last sign to consider when weighing if an employee is ready for your mentorship is if they understand its value. All too often, the “What’s in it for me?” (sometimes referred to by the acronym “WIIFM”) attitude interferes with an employee’s desire to simply learn and grow. A mentee can spoil a mentorship by solely seeking quick fixes to recurring problems or viewing the relationship as a one-up on other employees within the organization.
It’s paramount that a mentee has a clear understanding of the value of the mentorship you provide. Intentional, purposeful mentorship can put the mentee on the pathway to success. Abused, ungrateful mentorship can quickly tank the working relationship. Aside from a mentee’s positive attitude, their positive outlook on mentorship must be present.
Wondering Who to Mentor?
Do you remember your first mentee-mentor relationship? If you now see your employees mirroring how you were then, acknowledge their growth and encourage them to take on more. They deserve the same opportunities you were fortunate enough to have been given — and you can be the one to provide the next generation their own tools for success.