Honing your mentoring skills
Mentors facilitate mentees' growth in a number of ways, including by:
• Sharing resources and networks
• Helping them set and achieve goals
• Challenging them to move beyond their comfort zones
• Creating a safe environment for mentees to take risks
• Guiding them to decisions, rather than directing them
Sharing resources and networks
This can involve inviting mentees to networking events or industry seminars, introducing them to your contacts, sharing your knowledge about a particular topic, teaching them or coaching them to help them with a particular course, and so on.
Challenging them beyond their comfort zone
This can involve encouraging them to put their name forward for a project or position that they’ve never done, or to make a presentation, or to attend an industry event on their own. It could involve telling them about situations where you worried about being out of your depth and how you overcame the fear. It could involve exploring with them the benefits of stretching. And, when they do take on a challenge that is beyond their comfort zone, as their mentor it will be important that you help them prepare for the challenges to increase the likelihood of their success.
Creating a safe environment
This is about being open, encouraging, and non-judgmental. The purpose for creating a safe environment is so that the mentee feels comfortable to open up and express his or her concerns, insecurities, fears of failure, and so on. One of the most effective ways of creating a safe environment is to share stories of times you were faced with difficult decisions, adversity, or challenges and how you dealt with them and what you learned from them.
Guiding mentees to decisions
This involves a number of important skills, including active listening, asking appropriate types of questions for the circumstance, providing descriptive feedback, constructive criticism, and so on. It’s also about role modelling behaviour and providing examples from your own life and experiences. Descriptive feedback – in contrast to evaluative feedback – is where you tell about a similar choice or situation you faced and what happened in your situation. So, for example, instead of saying, “I wouldn’t do X if I were you”, tell about a time when you did something and you regretted it because of the unintended consequences that flowed from your action.