How can mentorship hack your agility? And how can mentoring be more agile?

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by Loïc Leofold

A few years ago, I was asked to be mentor for a Startup Weekend. I’m still very proud of my experience. Relationships with participants were mutually beneficial: they developed their competencies and worked to become more agile. And they gave me energy. It was very exciting!

When Sam looked for mentors to join the Happy Melly mentorship program, I immediately volunteered. But this experience failed with my first mentee! SH….

Why? Because mentorship is not coaching. It must be developed on very strong relationships. We didn’t take enough time to build it.

Get inspired with three TED talks on the benefits of mentorship

Mentoring is typically unpaid, but highly rewarding work. So before we get into what makes one, how about we start by getting inspired by these three TED talks on the power of being and having mentors.

Kam Philips on how mentorship can change the world

Kam Phillips, founder of Dream Outside the Box, which partners successful university students with at-risk kids, believes that positive mentor-mentee relationships have the power to cultivate social change. Every person should be mentored and in turn, mentor the next generation of change agents.

Brit Fitzpatrick on how mentoring reshapes our communities

In this talk, Brit Fitzpatrick, founder of a cloud-based platform that facilitates more effective mentoring programs, explains why mentoring is one of the most powerful ways to transform struggling communities.

Doug Stewart on leveraging mentorships

Doug Stewart, a student of mentorship, speaker, writer, facilitator and Dale Carnegie instructor, shares his personal experience and unique perspective of what mentorship really is and how you can choose to leverage it in your life to achieve amazing results.

How to kick off a strong mentorship relationship

As an agile coach, I draft a Coaching Agreement to define the modalities with the teams I coach. It’s the same when you start a mentorship relationship. You must take time to define what each person gives and takes from it. You can use the Give-and-Take Matrix. Be sure to clarify each expectation.

Read on: Management 3.0 tools for Agile Coaches

For example, with my second Happy Melly mentee, we defined ahead that the relationship was rather informal. We would meet via Skype and discuss via Slack or email. But we didn’t define the periodicity.

Mentorship is an agile process. That means, if it isn’t working, you can iterate and revise the agreement. Don’t forget that it isn’t a contract negotiation! It’s a commitment toward moving forward together.

Three mentorship hacks towards agility

Following the principles of agile will help you hack and hone your mentoring. Here are three ways to accomplish this:

Mentorship Hack #1: Just make the time!

“We don’t have time to…” How many times I’ve heard these words? Mentorship forces mentees to spend time apart from the daily work, meetings, phone calls, and reading emails to try to really understand what is being played in the team. It is time to listen to each coworker, to take time to learn from each other, to take time to build a legacy for the future.

Mentorship is a useful tool to scale agility in your organization, often pairing up people who have been through an agile transformation with those who have not — and sometimes this will involve a lower-level team member mentoring a higher level one.

Mentorship Hack #2: Use storytelling to build trust

Trust — a pillar of any agile organization — is based on authentic communication. Great mentors are excellent storytellers and teach the art of storytelling to their mentees. This way of communication increase the empathy of the team. Combining emotional and rational elements maximizes the impact of the message. People are emotional beings. The best communicators encapsulate their message within compelling narratives, often mixing and matching numbers and stories.

Mentorship Hack #3: Timebox decision making

The more time we spend making decisions, the more afraid we often get. Be sure to timebox your decision making process. Even if the decision is imperfect, it is not so important because you can iterate on experiments and learnings. You can try the Eisenhower Matrix, for example.

What about you? What makes a good mentor? What advice can you share from your experience as a mentor or mentee? Tell us in the comments below!

Photo: Women of Color in Tech 

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