Unleash Your Inner Mentor

Written by Mark Rowland Tuesday 03 December 2019
You don’t always need a mentor to develop your skills and approach. You just need the right mindset
Growing plant

If you want to develop your skills, you can learn a lot from your own experiences, if you look at them in the right way. I know this from personal experience. Six years ago, I decided that I needed to improve my mindset and approach to problem-solving.

Any issues outside of my control would send me into an often paralysing stress spiral. I would often shut down and withdraw. Sometimes I would come across as negative in front of senior managers. I didn’t want to be like that anymore.

I didn’t really have anyone who could potentially mentor me. I had found myself thrust into jobs with increasing responsibility in quick succession, without much in the way of support. I’d had to work things out for myself. And despite struggling to cope in certain situations, I had managed to make each of them work. With a bit more effort, I could change my mindset as well. Here’s how I approached my own self-mentoring.

Assess Yourself

I had set myself the objective of improving my behaviours in the workplace. Now I needed to assess where I was in terms of my performance, by going through my strengths and weaknesses. Being objective in your assessment is difficult – we often over or understate ourselves.

It’s why self-reflection can be such a useful tool. It can force you to look at things more objectively. When completing big tasks – particularly tricky ones – list out what went right and what went wrong. I also made a note of any feedback that I received from line managers, good and bad.

Look at anything within your work – it could be a grade, comments from others, or the results of that work – that can help support your assessment. This can help you with your objectivity.

Set Yourself Challenges

Long term mentoring is all about challenges. Write a list of things that you think you need to do in order to accomplish those goals. Pick out the things that make you feel uncomfortable, and put them to the top of the list. Now challenge yourself to do them.

You can work through the list in any way that you want, but keep those tough tasks at the front of your mind. Make yourself write a regular progress report to help you keep moving towards completing your list.

Reframe the Situation

A big benefit of mentoring is getting a different perspective on the work that you’re doing and how to approach it. This is harder to do without another person to guide you, but you can reframe a situation, take a mental step back, and assess it from another angle.

In situations where I knew I could succumb to a negative mindset, I made myself stop, take a breath, and question myself – is my take on the situation the right one? I tried to put myself in someone else’s shoes, looking in. What else might be happening here? Go through your thoughts and sort the facts from the conjecture. Removed from the situation, what does that look like?

It takes a little practice, but the more you do it, the easier it will become.

Repeat the Process

Mentoring is an ongoing relationship, and self-mentoring is an on-going discipline. You need to keep on assessing yourself, your objectives and your strengths. You need to set yourself fresh challenges. Situations change, and so do your goals and needs. But if you keep yourself on a path of self-improvement, you’ll always be prepared.

Are you looking to push yourself further in your career? To start setting meaningful goals, check out how to create a skills plan to see which areas you can develop in. For more information about the benefits of mentoring, read our report Sponsoring Women's Success, which contains executive leaders' views on sponsoring and mentoring.

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