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How to Be a Good Mentor

Every great warrior, leader or superhero, has had a mentor--an influence in their lives who's responsible for what they become. And as CIOs, grooming your prospective next-in-lines is as important as--if not more--generating revenue for your organization. But it's hard to be a good mentor. Jitendra Mishra, CIO, Elder Pharmaceuticals, shares a few pointers on how to be one:

Don't Cherry Pick. It's not wrong to be choosy. Separating the good fish from the bad ones is a hard--but a critical leadership trait. Even a bunch of talented people--and not just individuals--can be mentored. "If you find a way to do it, that is. And it isn't easy," says Mishra. In that case, wouldn't mentoring only one person be easier? "Well, it breeds jealousy and apprehension in the team. Besides, how do you really know if your candidate is a sure-shot leader material? Today's team spirit is far more vital to me than tomorrow's probable leader," he says.

Communicate with Empathy. It's very important to acknowledge a mentee's beliefs and understand their needs. "A bad listener is a bad manager, and hence a bad mentor. Humans can gauge the receptivity of a person from the first few minutes of a conversation," says Mishra. "So, if a mentor's empathetic listening skills aren't honed then he better step back," he adds.

Avoid Hand Holding. Helping is one thing, but doing it for them is quite another. The best way for your protégés to learn is to let them do it themselves--even if they make mistakes. "As a mentor, I can help avoid mistakes--that I've committed over the years--with my insights. But in the process, I'm depriving them of the fun of learning. Many of us learn crucial lessons of our lives through experience and not from hearsay," says Mishra.

Break Down Walls. Office lunches, informal team meetings, and even those occasional birthday parties--a good mentor makes the most of occasional team gatherings to develop camaraderie. "I strive till the point I can engage with my team on a personal level. People who take the initiative to respond are self-nominating themselves," says Mishra. "Remember, there's probably more for a mentor to learn in these informal gatherings than others."


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