5 Signs Your Mentees Are Ready to Spread Their Wings

November 2, 2018


When you spend 40 hours a week managing and mentoring a communications team, it’s easy to become preoccupied with everyday responsibilities such as reviewing press releases or collaborating on projects. But as a mentor your job goes far beyond those daily duties. For you, the bigger picture includes monitoring each team member’s holistic progress as you help them reach their career goals.

You need to keep an eye on mini-milestones (a decrease in your staff’s typos, for instance), but the real value of your mentorship becomes apparent when you can step back and acknowledge that your team members no longer require your guidance. Instead, they need the freedom to fly.

For managers, this part gets tricky. When your employees are ready to make big moves and take on more responsibilities, your own role may feel diminished. But don’t worry, it’s not. In fact, giving your employees more responsibility could be the reality-check you need to realize that it’s time for you to focus on your own professional goals, while your mentees-turned-managers (and PR stars) pursue theirs.

Of course, you don’t want to let go of the reins too early. Your team needs you up to a certain point. But here are five signs that they’re ready:

1. They’re completing projects with little or no oversight.

As your employees follow your roadmap for success and hone their own skills, they’ll inevitably get better and better at their jobs. But once they’ve turned their initial achievements into ongoing successes — completing major projects on their own (and completing them well), for example — it’s time to reconsider their roles and possibly give them more responsibility. Because while coasting through their work can boost an employee’s self-confidence and give them a break from the chaos, they will soon need new challenges. Your team members need to know you’re aware of their growth and are ready to help them take their next steps.

2. They’ve started pursuing higher-level work naturally.

Sometimes going from mentee to manager involves a formal process, but other times, employees have natural talent for assuming leadership responsibilities on their own. If you notice team members coaching junior employees or thinking strategically without your prodding, for example, it may be time to put such skills to regular use. By doing so, you will also help those communications professionals develop their own skills even further.

3. They’re speaking eloquently and confidently to clients.

For mentors, watching mentees go from nervously reading updates to clients to seeing them confidently share plans is a major point of pride. This progression also demonstrates that your employees are ready to start taking on more duties, perhaps by giving presentations to clients or by leading weekly calls and planning sessions.

At first, you may feel strange or sad relinquishing this control — you’ve loved being your client’s go-to, after all. But now it’s your employee’s turn to shine. And as their mentor and manager, it’s your job to let them.

4. They remind you of yourself.

Remember when you first assumed your management role and made your initial moves toward mentoring employees? If you now see your team members mirroring how you were then — whether by coaching junior staffers or asking for additional work — acknowledge their growth, praise it, and encourage them to take on more. They deserve the same opportunities you were lucky enough to have yourself, and your full support to pursue their own leadership goals.

5. They’re asking for a change.

If your people aren’t just demonstrating that they’re ready to expand their roles — but are asking for new responsibilities — then it’s their time to grow. Work with them to create action plans for how they’ll get from point A (their current jobs) to point B (becoming managers and mentors). Let them know you’ll guide them along the way, until they’re ready to fly on their own.

You should be proud of the path you’ve cleared for your team and excited for your own new journey ahead.

Stephanie Vermillion

Stephanie Vermillion is a content marketer and journalist in the New York City area. She’s the founder of Stephanie Vermillion Studio, and you can follow her work at @StephanieVermillionStudio on Instagram.


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