Chances are- the ones who inspired you the most and made you feel good about yourself.
Mentoring is the same. To be a great mentor we must focus more on the mentee than on our own expertise.
All too often I see many mentors and coaches with great credentials fail to influence their mentees not because of lack of expertise but because of lack of interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence
I like the old adage-
“When you want to teach maths to Ramu, not only must you know maths, you must first know Ramu.”
Regardless of who you are mentoring, there are a few pieces of advice that hold true on how to build a great mentoring relationship
8 Ways to Ensure You Are Sought Out As A Great Mentor
- Different strokes for different folks. Recognize that no two mentees are the same- do not try to fit everyone in a single mould.
After a few years of experience in a domain, if we are not careful, we get a ‘know it all syndrome’. When a mentee seeks advice, our mind gets busy scanning the library of our experience to see which solution will fit the mentee’s need. Worse still, we try to force-fit a solution from only what is available in our library.
The best practice here would be to deliberately remind ourselves to be more in the ‘ask’ mode then in the ‘tell’ mode and get as much background information before giving advice. Only once you've gotten a thorough background on a problem can you share helpful, relevant feedback -- without making decisions for your mentee. That's up to them.
- Manage Expectations upfront- When you first start out, it's important to take the time to assess your own style and readiness, and think about what kind of commitment you can and want to make.
Define rules of engagement- Set expectations together in the very beginning.
What expectations will you set in regards to your style and how best to work with you?
How will you know when your mentee is successful?
How will you communicate what success looks like to him/her?
How will you explain your expectations for your regular interactions? Frequency?
How will you use one-on-one time?
This exercise helps manage expectations right at the start and avoids any miscommunication or conflict on accountability.
Also, If you cannot help them in the area they want you to or if you are uncomfortable doing it you must set expectations early on.
- Get to know your mentee beyond their professional aspirations- Take a genuine interest in your mentee as a person.
Some time back, I engaged an architect for constructing my house. He spent two days with my family talking, watching, observing, and asking questions about what we like, what we expect from our living spaces, our habits. When I complimented him on the approach he said- “That’s the only way I can give you a home and not just a house”
A mentor/mentee relationship is a very personal one. You can give superficial advice without really knowing a person, but to really add value as an amazing mentor; you're going to have to get to know your mentee on a personal level.
- It’s okay to say ‘I don’t know’. A good mentor knows how to determine whether or not a situation lends itself to off-the-cuff feedback or really thoughtful feedback.
As a mentor, you are not expected to know all the answers, in fact it is good not to know the answers; It’s an opportunity for co-discovery and co-creation. So, when you don’t know, simply admit that.
What might this look like in a conversation?
"Thanks for sharing this with me. I'm going to take some time and give this some thought before we continue. I need to be clear on this myself. Let’s talk about it [tomorrow/next week/next time we meet]?
- Tune into the unsaid- become more sensitive to your mentee’s emotions- Improve your empathy skills.
We have all been there- when your significant other is visibly upset and you enquire if anything was wrong; she responds with a cryptic ‘nothing’. If you believe nothing is wrong- you really need to work on your empathy skills!
Sometime people are either incapable or unwilling to verbalize what they are really feeling. If you have empathy, you will not only hear what is said, you will hear the unsaid…that’s when you ‘get it’.
When you ‘get it’ that’s when the bond of trust develops between the mentor and the mentee and you can get your best work done.
“people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
The best mentors know how to ask the right questions, reading their mentee's body language, being open-minded, and even acknowledging and controlling their own emotions.
One great way doing it is by practicing active listening - making a conscious effort to really, truly pay attention to what your mentee is saying, instead of thinking about what you're going to say next.
- Be candid about the mistakes you have made- Makes the mentor more human: Being open to sharing your own mistakes and failures is one of the best gifts a mentor can give. Not only is it helpful information for problem-solving purposes, but it also helps build trust, gives them permission to share their own mistakes, and strengthens the relationship overall.
- Constantly learn about your mentee’s world and build your skills.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”- Alvin Toffler
In a fast changing environment, information can get obsolete fast. Fortunately you have all the resources and tools to access the right information at the right time.
Subscribe to and keep abreast with the high level developments in your mentees area of interest. As you learn more about the project, share relevant information with them like a weekly mail, blog post, link to an article or resource useful at that point for them.
During your regular one-on-one, discuss their perspective. Not only will it help you be more informed, it will help your mentee learn how to develop ownership over something, including how to execute and reach a goal on his or her own.
- Practice the Attitude of Gratitude: Give more than you ask for: I am a big believer of having an abundance mentality. I truly believe in "what goes around comes around."
If consulting/mentoring/coaching is your profession and you charge for your services, you negotiate upfront. Once you have agreed on the engagement, do not measure your advice against the monetary value of your assignment.
“Whenever there is no pay, there is always a payback.”
The best mentors and coaches I have had have selflessly offered their time and wisdom, given me feedback on my choices, pointed me to the right resources.
Be generous in your thinking and help freely -- and making it clear you're happy to do so. Removing self-interest from the relationship equation adds to trust and credibility.
- Walk Your Talk: Be a good role model: Last, but certainly not least, be a positive role model.
E. Wayne Hart who writes for Forbes says- "They ( mentee) are likely to follow your lead, adapt your approach to their own style, and build confidence through their affiliation with you. As a mentor, you need to be keenly aware of your own behavior.
Your mentee will pick up information about your "ethics, values, and standards; style, beliefs, and attitudes; methods and procedures simply by observing you.
“People don’t do what you ask them to do, they do what they see you doing”
Having said all that, becoming a great mentor is a learned skill, just like learning to drive a car- it takes practice and patience. The more you work with a given mentee, the more you'll learn about them: their communication style, how they process feedback, how they go about pursuing their goals.
At the same time, you'll learn a lot about yourself: how effectively you can explain ideas in a way others can like, how well you're able to control your emotions, and whether you're able to motivate others, and so on.
When done well, mentoring is as much a learning experience for the mentor as it is for the mentee and a highly rewarding experience for both.