Building Quality Feedback into Mentoring Relationships

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This is Part 8 of our 10-part series on the 10 Key Qualities and Habits of a Highly Effective Mentor. Read Part 7 here.

In our last post, we looked at how the most effective mentors are life-long learners; they’re dedicated to their own success (and therefore invested in that of others), value ongoing learning and growth, and set and achieve both personal and professional goals.

In this post, we’ll look at how mentors can successfully build quality feedback into their mentoring. Quality feedback is priceless because it clarifies expectations, helps people learn from their mistakes, and builds confidence. It also allows mentees to more effectively take what their mentors say and turn it into action.

“Millennials want feedback. They want it now and they want it consistently, or they’ll simply leave. Giving Millennials feedback is a very different game from what we knew in the past.”  – Karl Moore, ​Forbes

Let’s see how the best mentors are employing this technique in their everyday mentoring relationships.

Mentoring Quality #8: They provide quality feedback


1. They Bring Honesty with Diplomacy

Any questions that aren’t addressed can lead to concerns and problems, so you owe it to your mentee to be candid and straightforward. Dispense with formalities and really help facilitate an open, even lively dialogue—a give-and-take—and don’t beat around the bush in offering your constructive feedback, good and bad. Say what you know your mentee needs to hear, not what you think they want to hear. Be willing to debate and discuss, but in a tactful way. Provide useful, honest guidance while ensuring that your mentee takes the reins and makes their own decisions as to the next steps and/or the best course of action for themselves.

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2. They Create an Open and Honest Environment in Mentoring Relationships

Both mentors and mentees should feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, concerns, and suggestions. This can be achieved by setting clear expectations for open communication from the start.

An open and honest environment also requires active listening. Encourage one another to listen without judgment, allowing for mutual understanding and growth. By fostering an environment of trust and respect, you can lay the foundation for effective feedback exchange.

When it comes to creating an open and honest environment, transparency is key. Be transparent about your own experiences, successes, and failures. This transparency helps to build trust and credibility faster, as mentees can see that their mentors are not perfect and have faced similar challenges.

High-performing mentors encourage mentees to be transparent about their goals, aspirations, and areas of improvement. By openly discussing these aspects, mentors can provide guidance and support tailored to the mentees’ specific needs. This level of openness fosters a sense of collaboration and partnership, where both parties work together towards mutual growth and development.

Honesty is another crucial element in creating an open environment. Be honest with feedback, and provide constructive criticism while also highlighting mentees’ strengths and achievements. This honesty helps mentees gain a realistic perspective on their progress and areas for improvement.

Likewise, mentees should also be encouraged to be honest about their challenges and limitations. By openly acknowledging areas where they may need assistance, mentees allow mentors to provide targeted guidance and support. This honesty creates a safe space for mentees to explore their weaknesses and work towards overcoming them.

3. They Provide Guidance and Constructive Feedback

One of the key responsibilities of a good mentor is to provide guidance and constructive, S.M.A.R.T. feedback to their mentee. This is where the mentee will most likely grow the most—by identifying their current strengths and weaknesses, they’ll learn how to use them to make themselves successful in their respective fields. Good mentors possess excellent communication skills and can adjust their communication to the personality style of the mentee. A good mentor will also provide the mentee with challenges that foster professional development and a feeling of accomplishment in learning the field. As the mentee, it’s crucial that you listen to this feedback, don’t take it personally, and consider it with a level head. Remember, your mentor’s feedback is coming from the right place.

4. They Maintain Appropriate Boundaries

Remember that a mentoring relationship differs from a friendship. Yes, you can like and care about your mentee and want to see them succeed, but that doesn’t mean you have to socialize with your mentee or follow or friend them on every social media site. LinkedIn, specifically designed for business networking, maybe a more appropriate connection to establish with your mentee. Also, ensure that there’s no hidden agenda or ulterior motives involved in this relationship: Outside of the mentor-mentee relationship, you don’t owe your mentee any favours, and they don’t owe you anything except their gratitude. You can be an advocate for your mentee while still retaining your objectivity and fairness and not unjustly influencing any process either of you may be involved in.

4. They Dish Out Encouragement

Effective mentors possess the ability to build up mentees’ self-esteem and encourage them. This is a quintessential trait of a mentor and helps them embody the role of both coach and advocate for their mentees. Mentors should not give false or inflated praise, but they should always be encouraging.

Harnessing the ability to be diplomatic while honest, provide feedback and guidance, and maintain boundaries all while continuing to give encouragement can be a delicate balance, but the best mentors find a way! If you’re lucky enough to have a mentor like this, cherish them! They are truly a rare breed.

Ready to establish a culture of mentoring at your organisation? Why not start by sharing this series with your HR team?

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Identifying Effective Feedback Strategies for Mentors

Start with positive feedbackMentors play a critical role in providing feedback that truly benefits their mentees. One effective strategy is to start with positive feedback before offering constructive criticism. By acknowledging the mentee’s strengths and achievements, mentors can create a supportive atmosphere that encourages growth.

For instance, imagine a mentor working with a mentee who is learning a new programming language. The mentor could begin the feedback session by praising the mentee’s ability to grasp complex concepts quickly. This positive reinforcement not only boosts the mentee’s confidence but also establishes a foundation of trust between the mentor and mentee.
Be specific when giving feedbackBe specific when giving feedback. Vague or general feedback can be confusing and does not provide clear guidance for improvement. By providing specific examples, mentors can help mentees understand what they are doing well and identify areas for growth.

For example, let’s consider a mentor guiding a mentee in a marketing role. Instead of simply saying, “Your presentation needs improvement,” the mentor could provide specific feedback like, “Your presentation was engaging and well-structured. I particularly liked how you incorporated real-life case studies to support your points. However, I noticed that the conclusion could have been more impactful if you had summarized the key takeaways.” This specific feedback helps the mentee understand both their strengths and areas for improvement, enabling them to make targeted adjustments.
Encourage mentees to reflect on their performance and goals
Encourage mentees to reflect on their performance and goals. By asking thought-provoking questions, mentors can help mentees identify their strengths and weaknesses, leading to a more meaningful feedback discussion.

For instance, imagine a mentor working with a mentee who is preparing for a job interview. The mentor could ask questions such as, “What do you think are your strongest skills that align with the job requirements?” or “What areas do you feel you need to improve upon to increase your chances of success?” These questions prompt the mentee to reflect on their abilities and goals, allowing for a more insightful feedback session.

Effective feedback strategies for mentors involve starting with positive feedback, using specific examples, and encouraging mentees to reflect on their performance and goals. By implementing these strategies, mentors can create an environment that nurtures growth, empowers mentees, and facilitates their professional development.

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Emily Ryan
Emily Ryan
Head of Marketing at Mentorloop. Observing tens of thousands of mentoring relationships, she is passionate about helping people get the most from their mentoring experience. When not writing, you'll find her brewing beer or globe-trotting.

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