One of the great subsidiary benefits that an organization receives over the course of a project, which is often forgotten when crunching the figures of costs and profits, is how much team members improve their skills and abilities. Mentoring in project management is a subject that has always been around but until recently has been considered rather an informal occurrence, rather than a systematic learning opportunity.
A mentor assists more junior team members to create a long-term plan of where they would like to focus their career path and helps them to develop their professional abilities and also overcome challenges they may face. The importance of a mentor can be invaluable for ensuring a staff member gets to realise their full potential, benefitting the individual personally and the organization as a whole.
As mentoring in project management can be of such value and importance, it’s vital that you’re doing it in the most effective way possible. Here are some tips to improve your mentoring approach.
Create a roadmap
The first step to take with a mentee is to explain the process and get something concrete written down and, where possible, to track progress on project management software. It is key that they understand what you both are trying to get out of the process and a plan helps to visualize the path that the mentorship will take. The roadmap can change over time but a good place to start is to write down some personal and professional goals at important milestones, for example within six months, a year and five years. After that you can work out how these can be aligned and achieved.
It can be easy to focus on the immediate necessities of professional life and the things that have to be learned straight away. The importance of a mentor is that it gives the team member space to take a longer-term look at what they want to do and where their strengths lie. This can make a big difference when choosing which task strands in a project to focus on.
Work on building trust
Mentorship often means building a deeper relationship than might otherwise be the case for managers and senior team members. A core aspect of this is the trust and confidentiality that the two people have. While you are not expected to (and shouldn’t) be a therapist to the mentee, finding what really motivates them can often broach personal topics, so knowing that what is said goes no further than the room you are in is essential for allowing the bond to develop.
Make the time to be available
Showing that you are committed to the role of mentor is an important sign that you are actually interested in seeing the mentee advance. Rather than leaving things to chance, set out times when you will discuss the mentee’s progress with their plan, such as every two weeks or once a month. It can also be good to let them know that you are available to discuss any issues they might come across related to their professional tasks.
A great benefit of having years of experience in a certain role is that you will have seen a lot of things happen and understand how fluid a career can be. The opposite hinders more inexperienced employees, who might, for example, presume that working as a programmer for five years means they could never transition to be a product designer. Use your role as a mentor to explore all of the paths available to the mentee, rather than just what they think is possible.