A newly appointed manager is chosen based on merit and proven track record, hence he/she is technically well-versed in the field. The daunting task lies in managing a team of employees. The process of mentoring can be a big help in boosting the junior manager’s confidence. A senior manager takes the former under their wing and guides them through the initial phase in the new role. Both parties may be nervous and hesitant; the new guy about not making a good impression on the senior with his knowledge, and the senior about not appearing to care or be supportive enough. However, mentoring can be a successful and rewarding experience with these 4 ways to mentor junior project managers:
1. Appoint an Unbiased Mentor
The pairing of senior and junior managers is best done randomly. They do not need to be working on the same project. Mentoring is effective when it is unbiased; the mentor will then guide the junior manager on the best course of action without keeping any selfish motives or personal interest in mind. Both of them do not even need to have a similar technical background, since the knowledge sharing and guidance is all about people skills. Mentoring is quite different from intensive supervision; the mentor acts as a strategic adviser to the junior manager.
2. Decide a Pre-Set Schedule
On the first face-to-face meeting, the junior manager and the mentor should decide where and how often they will meet for all future sessions as convenient to both parties. The scope of discussions as well as the duration they expect to be in this mentoring relationship should also be fixed. Without defining these parameters, the sessions will lack focus and will not bring results. A senior manager should ensure that other work commitments do not come in the way of the pre-set meeting with the junior manager; not showing up will instill doubt about the effectiveness of the mentoring system.
3. Offer Flexibility
Some organizations formalize the mentoring program, where both parties undergo training to understand the system and its objectives. Discussions during meetings are documented and progress is tracked. However, this creates unnecessary stress for all involved, where a casual approach would have brought better learning. Sometimes the personalities of two people just do not gel well. The junior manager should be given the flexibility of requesting for a change of mentor if he/she feels that the concerns are not being addressed and the meetings are not fruitful.
4. Undergo Mutual Learning
A good mentor is one who comes into the relationship expecting to learn as much as to teach. Mentoring should be mutually beneficial, where the senior manager keeps an open mind for self-enrichment. A two-way channel of communication is developed, where both are free to discuss problems and suggest solutions. It encourages the protege to be forthcoming with ideas and builds a rapport between the two.
A good mentor will not concentrate on technical aspects of the protege’s job. Instead, more focus is put on handling people and situations. The junior manager will gain much more by being familiarized with the policies of the organization and by being introduced to other senior managers. Mentoring is the best way to get a junior project manager to tap into his/her full potential and experience an all-round professional development.