Mentorship offers such a valuable experience for both members involved. One of the hardest things to accept in life is that “we do not know everything.” This means that as a leader, we must find the answers somehow. The best way is to find someone who can offer guidance in a field that you need help. Whether it is in a field of study, finance, career path, skill training, business startups, or whatever you are pursuing, being a mentee by finding a mentor is incredibly rewarding. The mentee is provided with an opportunity to share ideas, ask questions, and discuss problems with a trusted person with experience in a similar field while the mentor is able to use his/her experience to help someone else. Throughout life, there will be times where we seek mentorship and take on the role of the mentee. Other times, we will have the opportunity to be the mentor. Here are five tips to become a more effective mentor:
1. Start With Trust
For any mentor-mentee relationship to be successful, the mentee MUST trust the mentor and vise versa. If you do not trust one another, the exchange of information will be diluted. A free flow of ideas can take place when there is a mutual investment in honesty. This trust can be developed with genuine discussion about the field the mentor is in and what the mentee wants from the mentoring relationship. When the mentor makes the mentee a priority and is willing to listen to his/her ideas, concerns, and questions, that expression without judgement goes a long way in developing trust. Keep the dialogue between you and the mentee between the two of you. Do not share the discussion with other people unless permission is granted by the mentee. A strong trusting relationship makes the process work.
2. Establish The Relationship
Before the mentorship process begins, the mentor should let the mentee know what is to be expected. A mentor should inform the mentee of the best ways to contact him/her and let the mentee understand that the mentor is there for the mentee if he/she ever needs it. After that, it is up to the mentee to make the first move. A mentor is not supposed to nag or persist the mentee; therefore, a mentor must be ready to listen and offer guidance when the mentee needs it. Some mentees are more self-starters and require less help while other mentees demand more guidance. Depending on your relationship and your field, you may have to adjust your mentorship style accordingly and be prepared for the unique mentee you are working with. The most important thing with establishing the relationship is for the mentor to allow the mentee to control the discussion while offering guidance, asking questions, and sharing experiences that can benefit what the mentee is attempting to do.
3. Listen More Than You Talk
A mentor is not a boss telling the mentee what to do. Instead, the mentor acts as a sounding board and is reactive to the mentees situation. Additionally, when it is time for the mentor to talk, the mentor should ask open-ended questions and allow the mentee to talk through their ideas or problems. Instead of just telling the mentee what to think, help spark their creative process and dig deeper into the situation. If a personal experience applies, feel free to share it.
4. Observe nonverbal communication
There is so much that isn’t typically said. A mentor should be able to observe nonverbal communication cues just as a leader does. As a mentor, we need to pick up on the nonverbal cues of frustration, disappointment, anger, excitement, embarrassment, confusion, stubborness, and other emotions or behaviors. Most people are wired to avoid any ounce of “feelings” which causes problems. The best mentors are aware of how the mentee is feeling and can read between the lines. The body language someone displays can tell a whole lot about how that person feels. This involves being able to identify “what isn’t being said.” Knowing how the mentee is feeling allows the mentor to adjust his/her approach to offering guidance or encouragement.
5. Encourage Often
One of the most common experiences in leadership is doing a thankless job. Not everyone acknowledges your accomplishments or respects the extensive amounts of hard work you put in. Luckily, this is where a mentor can be super effective. A mentor should offer praise and acknowledgement during the positive experiences. Also, a mentor should offer motivation and reassurance when the experiences are negative. Oftentimes, leadership is hard. Demonstrating courage to try a new skill, take on a new experience, or start a business, is hard to do. Many times, the “new” things we do can be terrifying. Anything worth accomplishing comes at a price. Mentorship allows a mentee to experience encouragement from someone else and assure them that they moving in the right direction. Since mentors have experience, they have likely experienced similar hard times or struggles. By listening to the mentee, reminding him/her about his/her purpose, and providing a continuous stream of encouraging words, the mentee will get the support they deserve in order to be successful. People may sometimes feel like they are on a journey of personal growth all on their own. A mentor is there to be at least one person who can make the mentee feel that someone else is there. We all deserve to have someone cheering us along and encouraging us. Who better than a mentor that has experienced similar challenges? Use your influence as a mentor to be the number one supporter of your mentee.
Those are 5 simple tips on being a more effective mentor. We all should find people in our lives to learn from and talk to. Also, we all have experiences that could be shared if we are willing to sacrifice our time and effort and help other people achieve their goals.