Mentors are incredibly powerful. A mentor is an experienced person with an area of expertise who provides support, constructive feedback and encouragement to an individual usually with less experience in a specific area. The purpose could be for career advancement, personal growth and skill development. It is a true gift when mentors generously share their knowledge and expertise with you.
The individual to whom the mentor provides support to is called the mentee. A mentor provides to the mentee: advice, expertise in a specialized area, support, encouragement, and practical strategies to achieve goals. Mentors also receive benefits through personal growth and developing their leadership and communication skills.
I’ve been blessed to have several mentors in my life. As a speaker, I’ve had mentors who have helped me to develop professional level platform speaking skills. In turn, I’ve helped to mentor and coach several people throughout my life. It’s very rewarding to be a mentor to help another person develop personally and professionally.
As a leader, you will be called upon or you might decide to offer your expertise, experience, knowledge and skills to assist another person in their development.
There are various types of mentorship formats available including: formal, informal, and peer mentoring. Below are some good rules of practice that can help guide and encourage you to have a successful mentoring relationship, whether you are the mentor or mentee. They are:
Being mutually respectful in terms of behaviour, words and attitude helps to consolidate goodwill in the mentoring relationship. Mentees want to develop their communication and leadership skills in an environment that is positive, supportive, and respectful. Likewise, mentors want to be respected for their expertise and knowledge.
Mentors function as a support system and it’s very important that both the mentor and mentee follow through on their individual commitments. For example, if contact between the mentor and mentee is to occur every week by phone or email, both parties should ensure that commitment occurs.
3. Establish Regular Contact
As a mentee, ensure that you are in regular contact with your mentor. Establish regular times that you will speak or meet with each other. Regular meetings could occur through email, telephone or in person. From the start establish a routine. As mentors typically have busy schedules, sometimes the mentee may have to be the one to reach out more frequently. Likewise, mentors should check in with their mentees periodically.
The old adage that “patience is a virtue” rings true especially in a mentoring relationship. It would be wise if both individuals learn to have patience with each other. This is especially true in the beginning stages, when the mentor and mentee are getting to know each other and setting goals.
5. Empathy and Compassion
As human beings, we do the best that we can on any given day. Our backgrounds, standards, beliefs and opinions will be different from one another. Through empathy and compassion, we can learn to respect each other and celebrate our differences.
6. Learn About Strengths and Areas for Improvement
The mentor and the mentee each bring strengths and areas for improvement to the relationship. Focus on what each person does well and capitalize on those strengths. On the other hand, realize that each person has areas that are in need of improvement. Pay attention to those areas and work on improving them. Learn to work together to develop a realistic plan for improvements over time.
In order to build trust and rapport, matters discussed within the mentoring relationship should remain confidential between the parties.
8. Honest and Constructive Feedback
In order to improve communication skills, leadership skills or any other skill the mentor must be willing to give honest, open, fair and constructive feedback to the mentee. If you “sugar coat” your feedback, your mentee will not improve their communication and leadership skills. If you are too harsh in your feedback, it could damage a person’s self esteem. Always leave the mentee something positive to take away from your interaction. Delivering specific feedback with examples of what was done well and what could be improved will help the mentee to improve and reach their goals.
We live in a time where everyone is busy juggling multiple commitments. Time is precious and no one likes to waste their time. When you’re in a mentoring relationship, ensure that productive meetings occur. For that to happen, have clear agenda items that will be discussed during your meetings to ensure maximum productivity.
10. Set Goals
At the beginning of the mentorship relationship meet regularly to set clear and achievable goals. Throughout the mentoring period, both the mentee and the mentor should monitor those goals. Keep track of goals by documenting or writing them down so that progress towards goals can be measured.
Mentoring is an experience that is ultimately rewarding. It’s an experience where people come together to grow and inspire each to develop a skill or ability and to strive for excellence.
What about you? How have the mentors in your life impacted you? Take the time to thank those who have helped you to develop a skill or an ability by generously sharing their expertise, knowledge, connections and advice with you. It’s a gift when someone graciously takes you under their tutelage to help you learn and grow.
On the other hand, have you thought about becoming a mentor? Each of us has gifts, skills, abilities and talents that we can use to help other people reach their goals. When you become a mentor, you just might change someone’s life! We want to hear from you. Share an experience about the impact of mentors in your life or your experience as a mentor.
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