Anyone in a leadership position, or who actively plays a role in helping others learn has an opportunity to build their skills as a mentor.
All of us in life have people that we turn to as sounding boards or trusted advisors when we’re facing challenges. These people are, in fact, our mentors.
In this article I’ll share some of the key traits of an effective mentor, in order to empower you to see how you too could play that role for those you influence.
What is a mentor?
Mentoring is when a relationship has been created to accelerate or unlock a person’s growth. The mentor is someone the mentee trusts, who they believe possesses the wisdom of experience to add value and enrich their life.
So when’s a mentor needed?
Generally, mentoring relationships are started when a person approaches you. You know they’ve got a good base of knowledge and skill, you know they’ve taken personal ownership of the challenge that they’re faced with, and they’re just in need of a little bit of guidance to give them the confidence to move forward.
In essence, the primary role of a mentor is to guide. We do this through providing support and advice in order to give a mentee greater levels of confidence.
How do we provide support and advice to give them the confidence they need?
Initially, the best way to show support is purely by listening and being there for them. Actively listen to learn, and show humility and empathy to create an environment where they feel comfortable opening up to you.
Once you have their trust, they will be far more compelled to take on board your advice.
When delivering advice, there is a recipe to do so effectively and get the best response from the person you are mentoring.
The best way to give advice is by sharing a scenario or an example where a similar situation was faced by yourself, through your own experience, or you’ve learned it from somebody else and their experience.
When opening about this scenario, be sure to share what worked or didn’t work to give the mentee greater clarity or insight into a possible solution.
To give this advice effectively, there are three golden rules:
Rule 1: In describing the scenario or example, use language that is encouraging and offers a suggestion, but is not directive. Remember, you’re not there to solve the problem for them, but rather to offer direction and guidance on the best means possible to overcome a particular challenge.
Rule 2: When choosing a scenario or example, ensure that it is contextual and something that your mentee will be able to relate to. If you are mentoring someone junior at work who has only been in the workforce for a couple of years, you would be better off sharing a story from when you started working, rather than a story about a challenge a CEO is facing.
Rule 3: Ensure there’s a clear learning from the scenario so there’s an insight for the mentee to draw on. It’s easy to get lost in the story and forget why you started it in the first place. But make sure you bring it back to what they can learn from it, so there is a clear take away to action
As a mentor, for these three golden rules to be effective, you need to have absolute clarity of your mentee’s goals and the real issue that’s being addressed. Having a clear picture of the support they need from you will ensure that the advice you’re giving will really hit the mark.