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The Accountability Factor: Teaching Mentees to Take Ownership

A good mentor knows that their role encompasses many lessons, but one of the most important is accountability. I’m not just talking about taking responsibility for your actions or being proactive, although these are both important skills to learn from a mentor. When I talk about accountability, I’m referring to the extra layer of motivation a mentor—someone who is counting on you to produce results—can spark in a mentee. Many young professionals start out in business with aspirations to work hard and achieve their goals, and some of them might even take steps towards realizing them. But nothing encourages a junior employee to put their best effort forward like the trust and confidence of a seasoned colleague.

Most of the skills learned in the first few years of a business career are designed to make employees effective team players with a strong understanding of the organization’s goals and procedures. Individuals are not necessarily encouraged to stand out among their peers or seek rapid advancement, and for most, this suits them fine. But an employee seeking mentorship is different; they want to learn, to excel, and to gain the skills they need to become leaders in their fields. Rather than blending in, they seek out challenge and responsibility, and the extra accountability gained through mentorship is exactly what they need to tap into their true potential.

We’ve talked about the many challenges of being a mentor and how it can be quite difficult to motivate mentees to stick to set goals and follow the mentorship plan. But if we know that mentees inherently want to excel in their careers, and may simply lack the guidance and motivation to do so, how can a mentor leverage the power of accountability to help them succeed? There are several ways, and most of them coincide with the essential elements in a successful mentorship.  

  • Set your expectations and stick to them: Before you can create accountability, you need to set clearly defined expectations for the mentorship. The mentee needs to know they should take the program, its goals, and the expected results seriously. Because they are still new in business, it’s important to create direction from the onset.
  • Have them list and explain specific goals: Ideally, the goals for the mentorship should be set by the mentee. It’s their career, after all, and encouraging them to set their own goals will create ownership and teach them to discern what is achievable from what is unrealistic. What’s more, by setting their own goals, they’ll create accountability for themselves in pursuing them.
  • Ask for regular updates on progress towards their goals: At this point, the mentee should know they are expected to make real progress toward their set goals. As you give them advice and help them take discernible steps in the right direction, request that the mentee report back on their accomplishments. In order to be effective, check-ins should be specific rather than general.
  • Believe in them: One of the strongest generators of motivation is knowing that someone is counting on you. An employee who’s begun to acknowledge the importance and benefits of a mentor will strive to work harder and will make efforts to deliver better results.

In conjunction with these four points, mentors should create accountability by always maintaining and demanding transparency in communication. Honesty is essential to the success of any mentorship program, and without trust, mentees will never be motivated to take responsibility for achieving their own goals and putting themselves to the task of making their mentor proud. 

As with most lessons in mentorship, teaching accountability to a mentee can be challenging. A mentee must truly believe in the goals they set for themselves and their ability to achieve them. But if they are lacking in confidence in the beginning, a mentor's faith in a mentee and trust in their abilities can give a them the motivation they need to get the work done. 

If this post resonated with you, check with your organization to see whether you are part of the MentorCloud network. If not, sign up for a demo here! Our vision is to create a mentoring planet in which true equality is achieved and hard work is rewarded, but it's only possible with your participation.