If you want to be an engaged leader, you’ve got to be a purposeful mentor- not just for the people who currently work for you, but to the people who work around you, the people who have worked for you, and the people who may work for you in the future in your particular area of expertise.
The first step is to open your door. You need to figure out how to be accessible in a healthy way both for you and for those who can benefit from your mentorship. Your organization (and you) will be better for it.
Then, once you have accessibility, you have to do the really tough thing: You have to actively listen. That’s not always easy. The hardest thing I do is active listening. In general terms, I believe most of us are lousy listeners. It is hard to focus on the matter at hand and make the person who is speaking feel like they’re the most important person in your world at that time.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to learn how to be a better listener. I’ve got to consciously make the effort, because my mind is racing all the time. That’s the way I am. But I’ve worked on it. And over time, I think I’ve learned how to be pretty good at it.
Then the last piece of mentorship, the way I define it, is to truly care. To demonstrate that you’re not only listening, but that you also truly care- and not just about the person’s role in your organization or his or her career, but about what’s best for the individual person.
The way I define it, a mentor isn’t just someone who teaches you the ropes or pushes you to the next promotion like a coach. It’s different. It’s someone who can really listen and help you to figure out what’s best for you. And you need to be both a mentor and a mentee in your career to be effective in that capacity.