“The key to being a good mentor is to help people become more of who they already are – not to make them more like you.”
The traditional view of a mentor is someone who shares experience and imparts knowledge. In contemporary mentoring a mentor does a lot more listening than talking. A mentor’s role isn’t to tell a mentee what to do, it is to act as a guide. A mentor asks questions and draws out the mentee’s own thoughts before offering advice and providing additional options.
A mentor also challenges, offers a different perspective, another point of view and provides support. While no two mentoring relationships are the same, all mentoring relationships should start with the same solid foundations:
Elicit: Ask questions then listen
Challenge: Provide a different perspective
Support: Encourage and validate
Impart: Share knowledge and experience
Mentors pull – they don’t push
A mentor never “pushes” by telling, instructing or giving advice
They listen to understand
They ask questions
They will paraphrase and summarise discussions
They can suggest options
They will give feedback
They can offer guidance
They help mentees to solve their problems
American author, John C. Maxwell, once commented: “One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see, and to help them navigate a course to their destination.”
Who could become a mentor?
Essentially, the role of a mentor is suited to:
- Anyone would like to help others to develop to the next level and beyond.
- Anyone who wants to step up into a more senior role and needs to develop their coaching, leadership and inter-personal skills
- Forward-thinking managers who want to provide an environment where everyone is encouraged to generate ideas and share not just knowledge but a commitment to personal development.
The many benefits of mentoring for both the Mentor and the Mentee include increased confidence, transformation, motivation, innovation, productivity, collaboration, recognition, appreciation, engagement and fulfilment.
What are the expectations of a mentor?
- Encourage mentees to develop their own resourcefulness: mentoring does not mean giving advice – it is up to the mentee to decide whether to use the information they receive from their mentor.
- Guide the mentee to look at a wide variety of options and consider alternative courses of action in order to solve problems for themselves, rather than to give answers or provide solutions.
- Be a sounding-board and provide a link into other information and people who can help. The mentor doesn’t need to have all the answers.
- Help the mentee gain new personal skills, experiences and knowledge.
- Provide an outside perspective on the mentee and their career
- Help the mentee to develop new attitudes and behaviour, thereby improving both their personal and business performance.
- Listen, in confidence, to the things that are worrying the mentee about their career.
- Help the mentee by sharing their own experience of failures and successes.
- Give friendly, unbiased support and guidance.
- Facilitate decision-making by suggesting alternatives based on personal experience
- Provide honest and constructive feedback.
- Provide ongoing support and encouragement.
Sometimes all a mentee needs is to talk to someone and this process in itself will make actions and solutions obvious. The mentoring process then simply becomes a catalyst for change.