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What millennials want in a mentor

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The millennials are here and we should stop talking about "them". Their thinking and contributions are already making an impact on the way organisations function. 

This young generation also has specific expectations for what organisations and their managers should offer.

This is according to Niël Steinmann​, author of the book Crucial Mentoring Conversations, that was presented at the year-end We Read for You (WRFY) presentation​, held recently by USB Executive Development (USB-ED) and finweek in Cape Town.

Mentoring as a development tool is embraced by millennials, as they view it as the way life works, Steinmann said. Millennials – people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s – understand that the value of mentoring lies in connecting with those who can provide insights and experiences that are not captured in some policy document or procedure. 

They want mentors who are accessible and available, who show a genuine interest in their development, who can offer quality advice, and who exhibit listening skills that will build trusting relationships, he explained.

According to Steinmann, millennials place a strong emphasis on finding work that is personally fulfilling. 

They want work to afford them the opportunity to establish new relationships, learn new skills, and identify with a larger purpose, which is a critical factor in their quest for job satisfaction. 

Millennials also view continuous learning as important to their future success and will join organisations where the opportunity for personal development is a top priority. 

The need for mentoring is greater than ever before and informal mentoring has not kept up with the challenges of business, Steinmann argued. 

Leaders in all spheres are increasingly expected to navigate mentoring relationships. Formalised mentoring is now a strategic business initiative and institutions are more than ever expecting to see a "return on relationship". 

Successful mentoring relationships require more than an ad hoc effort to get together for a cup of coffee. 

It is for this reason that organisations have been tempted to structure mentoring so that mentees may benefit from a more deliberate effort from mentors who are intentional in their conversations, the opportunities they provide, and the feedback they give, he said.

Steinmann, South Africa's leading authority on mentorship, suggests a structured and intentional approach to mentoring. 

In his book he explains that success in life is dictated by the quality of the relationships we build and maintain. 

He explores the various conversations that are crucial for mentoring relationships, and offers rich advice and practical tools such as a framework to have authentic, insightful and reflective conversations on topics that are crucial to a mentee's personal and professional development. 

According to Steinmann, when you mentor intentionally, opportunities for crucial mentoring conversations present themselves all the time. 

This includes finding your purpose, navigating career challenges, having a better understanding on issues that will improve performance, developing core strengths, and managing personal and professional relationships and networks.

It is clear that mentoring is "more colourful" and offers greater value when a mentor and mentee pursue these deeper, more honest conversations, he said. 

Mentors can most certainly explore the value of a more formalized mentoring approach. 

Crucial mentoring conversations hold the key to deeper, more honest conversations that facilitate greater awareness and learning in ways that challenge, inspire and enable mentees to learn about themselves and their world.

Mentoring might be a role that you as a manager are expected to fulfil, or possibly you have volunteered as mentor because you recognise the importance of giving back or even leaving a legacy.  

Nevertheless, however you are involved in this role, his advice is the same – be committed, make time and do it intentionally. Mentoring is a joy and a massive privilege, Steinmann said.​

First shared online on 15 Dec 2017:
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