Five tips for being a better mentor

Written by Laura Francis on 16 March 2017 in Opinion
Opinion

Could you be a better mentor? Laura Francis has five quick and easy tips to improve your relationship with your mentee. 

At some point in your life, there is a pretty good chance that you will be a mentor to someone, even if only in a more informal relationship. It can be exhilarating to think that you are helping shape someone’s development and potentially helping them carve out a career path for themselves.

But that said, it can also feel a bit overwhelming at times to be a mentor and to be looked upon as the guiding light in someone’s life.  

The truth is that mentors don’t always have the answers, nor should they. Mentors aren’t there to just point in a direction and tell the mentees to go. Mentors should act as a sounding board and guide for their mentees, but should also push their mentees to find their own answers. 

It can require a delicate balance of listening, sharing, brainstorming, commiserating, encouraging, and more. To help you find the right balance and be a more effective mentor, Here are five tips to share that you can implement in your relationships.

Listen and observe before advising
It is important that a mentor communicate direction to the mentee based on the mentee’s understanding of the situation. To do this, you must be attentive and analytical, seeking to understand the mentee’s perspective.

Mentors should act as a sounding board and guide for their mentees, but should also push their mentees to find their own answers. 

Strive to be an empathetic listener and observer, and put effort into listening and observing before you offer advice. This will help you slow down and focus, as well as gain information and clarity about the situation that you might have otherwise overlooked.

Enable quick wins
A good measure of success in a mentoring relationship is to assess how much progress the mentee feels they are making.  Enabling quick wins can help keep your mentee feel motivated and encouraged, which can in turn lead them to even more positive outcomes and growth.

One way you can keep your mentee motivated is to establish short-term goals or measures that will indicate when they make progress. You could also assess their current skill and knowledge level and build on these as a way to enable a quick win.

No matter how you choose to tackle it, it is vital that you track progress in a supportive way and follow through on any commitments you make to ensure that your mentee remains successful.

Challenge excuses
We’ve all been there: We get overwhelmed with competing priorities and lose sight of our goal. We may blame circumstances or someone else for our stumble or outright failure, but we also have to examine our own role in the situation.  As a mentor, you should be helping your mentee honestly assess their performance.

This will help empower them and lead them toward greater accomplishment. One way to achieve this is to relentlessly pursue and reject excuses the mentee may use to deflect personal ownership or responsibility. Keep in mind, a good mentor never allows the mentee to lose spirit, and a great mentor lets them know they can perform well and succeed.

Share your experiences
The best training resource a mentor has to offer is their own experience. Most of us learn things more quickly if we have a context or story in which to fit them. By sharing your experiences with your mentee, you can enrich the mentee’s understanding of the subject matter, as well as give them permission to learn from their own experiences.

Remember to share your experiences with humility. This relationship is not about you; it is about helping your mentee learn and succeed. Be sure to ask questions that can help the mentee take your experiences and apply them to their own situation.

Celebrate progress
Many mentees are self-conscious about how their new practices are reflecting on them. Help them see the positive changes they are achieving through mentoring—and help them embrace their successes! Try ending your mentoring conversations by recapping your mentee’s accomplishments.

This becomes a gentle and honest form of ego-boosting that can help you and your mentee both celebrate the progress you've made.

 

About the author

Laura Francis is director of marketing for River.

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