How to ensure mentoring success as a mentor
You’ve accepted a request to become a mentor. You want to give back, help another person move forward personally and professionally. But what now? The task seems a bit daunting—What is expected? What am I supposed to do? How can I be the best mentor I can be?
In my experience in working with mentoring initiatives across many industries and cultures, I have found 5 basic actions that support mentoring pairs in their success. Setting expectations about regularly practicing these actions is where mentoring begins.
- Listen first. Mentors who listen well learn much. It is not just listening to the information that mentees express, but seeking to understand what mentees really mean. It is listening to the heart and passion of mentees, and listening for the best ways to encourage them and hold them accountable. It is resisting the temptation to give advice. Instead, help mentees find their own way to the best solutions. It is being a sounding board for mentees to work through their issues.
- Prioritize building trust in the relationship. Human growth cannot happen in the absence of safety. Mentees need to know that your loyalty to them is first and foremost. When mentees feel safe, they can be vulnerable and open to new learning and growth. You can build trust by following through on what you say you’ll do, spending time together, working on goals together, remaining open-minded and curious to learn from other, and giving positive and corrective feedback well. Be careful not to break confidentiality, be dishonest, blow off meetings, not return calls, show up late, or behave in a way that expresses condescension, rudeness and disrespect.
- Inspire your mentee by believing in them and believing they have the best of intentions to grow personally and professionally. Personal and professional growth is difficult. Mistakes will be made. Mentees will procrastinate. There will be setbacks. The important thing is to know and believe that your mentee can do what the two of you have set out as goals. Know that your mentee intends to do his or her best, even if life and reality sometimes get in the way. Make sure your mentees know that you have their back and believe they will be successful.
- Set goals and write them down. When you put structure like this to your mentoring relationship, it allows you to evaluate specifically how things are going, and appreciate the work that has been done. It allows you as a mentor to be very specific with your accountability and encouragement. When writing goals, consider character development as well as competency objectives. Mentoring allows your mentees to integrate all aspects of their lives into their goals for more robust growth.
- Give both encouraging and corrective, or constructive, feedback. Feedback is a critical part of building trust and spurring growth. Regular feedback is the best way for mentees to know how they are doing. It gives them another perspective to learn from. Aim for a 4 to one ratio: 4 specific things you have noticed that they are doing well to every 1 constructive or corrective suggestion.
If you practice these skills, you will become a good mentor. The mentors I have worked with who are diligent with these five skills are adept and feel confident in their mentoring. I hope this encourages you to say “yes” the next time you are asked to be a mentor!
Written by Dr. Liz Selzer