In the next few weeks, I am running training sessions for mentors who will be working with disadvantaged young people at the educational charity, Endeavour.
If you are considering giving back to your community or within the business world, or think that you would benefit from mentoring yourself, here are some of my thoughts on what makes a good mentor and what a mentee can expect from mentoring. These tips can also be applied in more ‘informal’ situations like parenting and friendship advice.
WHAT IS MENTORING?
“The act of helping someone to understand more fully the environment they find themselves in, to assist and support them in advancing their career and life in general and learn from every day experiences.”
Mentoring is more than ‘giving advice’ or passing on what your experience was in a particular area or situation. Above all, it is about motivating and empowering the other person to find their own issues and goals, and helping them to find ways of resolving or reaching them – not by doing it for them, or expecting them to ‘do it the way I did it’, but by respecting different approaches.
Everyone involved in mentoring benefits!
Mentoring offers people the opportunity to share and develop their knowledge, experience and skills. Furthermore, it gives everyone who is involved the opportunity to gain an understanding of the different viewpoints, interests and issues that exist.
Trust, honesty, and truthfulness are the basis of mentoring.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD MENTOR?
A good mentor may operate as a Coach (To help in development – carrying out specific tasks or activities) a Facilitator (To create opportunities for the mentee to practice their new skills), a Counsellor (To help the mentee to explore the consequences of potential decisions) and/or a Networker (To refer the mentee to others when the mentor’s experience is insufficient).
Traits of a good mentor
- Empowering attitude – showing interest in helping others to succeed
- Reliability, honesty, and trustworthiness
- Willingness to share expertise and time
- Capability to actively listen – not interrupt, pick up important cues from what someone says
- Empathy – can you convey an understanding of their experience without saying ‘yes me too’ and launching into anecdotes of your own?
- Passing on your knowledge clearly, encouragingly and helpfully
- Building confidence; praising and acknowledging achievements
The temptation when mentoring someone is to offer solutions to problems. You will need to find ways to hand issues back to the person and encourage them to find remedies for themselves.
WHY SHOULD YOU BECOME A MENTOR?
- Beneficial to own skills development and career progression
- Reaffirmation of professional knowledge, experience and skills
- Opportunity to contribute
- Opportunity to gain an understanding of the viewpoints and interests of others
- Development of interpersonal skills and the challenge to think through issues
- Opportunity to develop as a leader
WHAT ABOUT THE MENTEE?
Mentoring benefits the mentee in the following ways:
- Communication – opportunity to discuss issues
- Confidence and Self-Appraisal – opportunity to receive honest and constructive feedback
- Goal Setting – opportunity to learn how to set and work towards realistic goals
- Negotiation – opportunity to learn to think more strategically and learn the skills required to achieve goals
- Interpersonal Skills & Conflict Resolution – opportunity to develop listening skills and understand how different people and personalities interact with each other
Mentees can change/achieve goals more quickly and effectively than working alone. Also, they can build a network of expertise to draw on which can benefit both themselves and others.
To make the most of mentoring; enthusiasm, motivation and commitment are important for mentees. As a result, they should identify their strengths and weaknesses as well as skills they would like to improve.
Finally, here are some key aspects of any mentoring relationship which it is important to get right:
As a mentor, it is certainly important to remember that different people will find they prefer to communicate in different ways. As the mentoring relationship progresses, you will consequently be able to decide which form of communication works best for both of you.
Giving and Receiving Feedback
Mentoring is a great way for you to improve understanding of how people interact and communicate with each other. As the relationship grows, you should find that you can give and receive feedback more openly and more constructively.
Setting goals is very important in mentoring relationships. Therefore, when you first communicate, work together to agree goals that the mentee would like to achieve. You will then both have something to work towards together!
Doing this also gives you a starting point to develop your mentoring relationship even more. As the relationship grows, you may find the original goals have changed. That is OK. Rather, the important thing is that you have something to work towards.
HOW I CAN HELP
I can provide advice on becoming a good mentor, or alternatively I can work as a mentor in specific situations. For more information, please feel free to contact me.