One of the challenges of being a mentor is knowing how to best guide your mentee towards the goals they have set for themselves. Becoming comfortable with holding people accountable is a beneficial skill for leaders. Being a mentor is a great way to develop this skill while helping someone else at the same time.
Before you conjure up images of a version of yourself telling someone off for not doing their homework, let’s look at what accountability means and why it is beneficial.
What does holding someone accountable mean, and why is this beneficial?
Accountability means holding someone responsible for their actions, behaviours, performance, decisions. It is often associated with negative consequences which can create fear and anxiety about raising it as a focus – many of us have school to thank for this anxiety.
A constructive approach to accountability can produce many positive results for your mentee, including improving productivity and performance, improving engagement and commitment within the mentor relationship, and helping them feel more competent. It can not only help them to move towards their goals faster, but also help them to build confidence around taking on responsibility for delivering on tasks.
The key to introducing a healthy mindset around accountability is to empower your mentee to set their intentions and decide on the responsibilities they want to take on. Then, help them to review and reflect on the outcomes with curiosity and a desire to learn, rather than fearing what will happen if the result is different from what was intended.
By introducing accountability practices into your mentorship relationship, you will help to create a culture of accountability, which will likely have flow-on benefits for you and your mentee.
How much should I push my mentee and hold them accountable for achieving their goals?
As a mentor myself, I am conscious about how much I ask of my mentees and sometimes shy away from creating and holding my mentees to tasks and goals. Other mentors I know are confident and organised to develop a structure for their mentee and hold them accountable. Which is the best approach? It depends on your mentee’s wants and needs and how you think you can best help them.
As someone who is shy away from holding people responsible, I actively work to create more accountability within my relationships. To do this confidently, I need to know that it is what my mentee wants.
Creating a culture of accountability
Step 1: Ask your mentor if and how they would like to be held accountable.
The first step to creating a culture of accountability with your mentee is to ask them if and how they would like to be held accountable. Doing the work upfront to set expectations will help make sure you are both on the same page, and it will give you some more certainty about the behaviours that will be most beneficial to your mentee.
Step 2: Set up practices that create accountability with your mentee
Here are some ways that you can create accountability throughout your mentorship relationship:
- Ask your mentee if they have any goals or objectives to work towards and timelines around them. (Tip: If they don’t, this could be something you can help to create.) Then, ask them if they would like to be held accountable for the overall goal and the tasks that will help them to reach the goal. This will help to set expectations.
- Read our guide for how to create a 90-day plan with your mentee.
- At the end of your session, ask your mentee if they’d like to be held accountable for [X task] in your next session. You can let them know what you mean by this; for example, you can say that you’ll check in with them on the task or action next session and together, you can reflect on the results.
- Send a follow-up check-in email between sessions to see how they are getting on with [X task]. Or, ask your mentee to send you an email to let you know how they got on with [X task]
Use our weekly reporting tool to create consistent actions for your mentee.
Step 3: Support your mentee to reflect on their progress and give honest feedback.
Create the space for your mentee to reflect on their performance to identify opportunities for learning and growth. This is your opportunity to add value through accountability. You can ask questions to help your mentee identify why they didn’t accomplish what they set out to do, as well as asking them questions to help them explore and learn from their accomplishments. Don’t forget to celebrate the successes!
Having more accountability is something that many mentees want from their mentorship relationship. As a mentor, this is also a great opportunity to develop your ability to create accountability within relationships, a skill that is valuable for leadership abilities.
Make sure that you align your behaviours with the wants and needs of your mentees by discussing how to help them get the most of the relationship at the outset, and understand their appetite for being held accountable. Introduce practices to create accountability and take the time to help your mentee reflect on their performance with a curious, growth-focused mindset. This is a great learning opportunity for you both!