Do you consider yourself a mentor to your accounting staff? Whether or not you have assumed this role, your employees see you as their leader. Like it or not, they take their cues from you. This shouldn’t put undue pressure on you to perform perfectly, but it should drive you to sharpen your mentoring skills.
Don’t Discount Yourself from Mentoring an Employee
There is a popular and incorrect belief that all mentors are born with the ability to guide and grow others. This isn’t always the case. There are definitely natural-born mentors. But, great mentors are usually not born, but made by developing their leadership skills. You can do the same.
How to Mentor Your Accounting Staff
The question is not if you should mentor your accounting staff, or can you be a mentor; it’s how you should undertake this task. One way is to choose just one person to develop a mentoring relationship with. Let this accountant know that you see potential in him or her, and ask if he or she is interested in being mentored (most accountants will jump at the chance).
Once you’ve established the relationship and your intent, begin sponsoring your mentee. Forbes contributor E. Wayne Hart wrote, “Opening doors and advocating for your mentee can allow (him or her) to develop new skills and gain meaningful visibility. You can create and seek new opportunities for (this person) and connect (him or her) with people in your network. Mentors keep a watchful eye on the horizon, looking for both threatening organizational forces and positive opportunities. You want to be on the lookout for…rumors, people taking an adversarial position relative to the mentee, shortcuts through the system, low-visibility or no-win assignments and high-visibility or win-win assignments.”
Here are a few other helpful ways to mentor accountants:
- Shadow them for 30 minutes or an hour, or even less time if that is all you can manage. Then offer feedback.
- Ask what their professional goals are and be mindful of those goals as you teach, motivate, train, and inspire employees.
- Ask questions more often than you give answers. In his article 5 Things Great Mentors Do, Jay Stanfield wrote, “When you’re a mentor, it’s tempting to wax philosophical and share old war stories of business days gone by. But remember your goal: to prepare your mentee to tackle future challenges with his or her own brain. When discussing past challenges or trip-ups, ask open-ended questions, helping your mentee to make the connections that will solve future problems. Mentor yourself out of a mentorship, so your colleagues will grow and stand on their own.”
A mentoring relationship can be a truly beautiful thing. It models experiential, social, and collaborative learning at its finest. Mentoring someone may involve sacrifice, but it will be worth it in the end for both parties.