Sigrid Dalberg-Krajewski is senior director of communications at Berlin-based Delivery Hero, where she leads a 20-person team, nearly all of whom she’s found mentors for. We find out why you should — and how you can — do the same for your team.
This Q&A first appeared in our weekly Startup Life newsletter. For more insights like this, sign up here.
Everyone needs a sparring partner
People might not feel comfortable asking for career advice from their boss or colleagues; mentors can show you the ropes and challenge you.
There are three types of people that especially need mentors
If there is a person looking to level up — become a manager or get a promotion — it’s extremely important to have an outside perspective. If someone is stuck in a rut or a development case, they absolutely need a mentor. If someone is looking to transition into another field of expertise, they do too.
Before looking for a mentor, speak to the mentee
Say, ‘I would love to try to find a mentor for you — but before I do, what is important for you to have in this mentor?’ Some might say, ‘I’m good with my subject matter expertise, but I’m struggling with leadership’. Or they might be looking for a mentor who knows a particular coding language. Find a mentor that fits their needs right now.
Work hard at matchmaking
Look at your closest network first; mentoring is a time investment, and every person I’ve asked to be a mentor knows they could ask me in return. Always try to pull together people who’ve had similar experiences — or at least similar ambitions. If someone is transferring from one role to another, find a mentor who’s already in that other type of role, but with a few more years of experience. That can take quite a lot of time.
Aim for a session per month
Most of my team have long-term mentorships; some talk weekly, some once per month, some once per quarter. I’d recommend having at least a session per month at the beginning, and try it out for three months.
Mentoring has business benefits
Finding my team mentors has heightened their business maturity. It’s improved our feedback culture — I see more direct feedback, feedback which is not shallow but more constructive, feedback which is to the point and brings in facts, not personality. In general, my team has become more self-aware and self-confident.
How (and how not) to run a startup.
Mentors get as much out of mentoring as mentees
Not a single person I’ve asked to be a mentor has said no. A lot of people have come back to me to say, ‘I was hesitant going into this but we’re on our third session now and I’m also learning a lot’. You need to question your own advice — and your advice will be questioned. Mentees might be facing a lot of operational tasks that people in more senior positions might not have any more; that’s exhilarating — being close to the action, finding out what are the issues on the ground — and understanding how much you’ve learned [since you were in that position].
It’s your responsibility as a manager to find your team mentors
This is not a luxury thing; this will help you so much in building and strengthening your team that it’s your responsibility to do it. If you think that 10 years ago it would’ve been amazing if your manager had found you a mentor, you are that person now, so you better make sure you make it happen. It’s also your responsibility to find mentors for yourself.