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  • Debbie Schwake

How to be a Kick Ass Mentor

Updated: Feb 26

“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” — Oprah Winfrey

If you've had the fortune of having a mentor, much like me, you'll recognize the immense value of having someone to guide, advise, and inspire you. A great mentor validates your path and empowers you with the confidence to take steps you might have been hesitant to take.

The reality is that the rewards of being one match the benefits of having a mentor. I grow immensely through mentoring others. There's an indescribable fulfillment in aiding others to pursue their dreams and sharing experiences that resonate with both of you.

There are so many ways to be a good mentor, some of which are outlined here.

Mentors Listen Actively

Effective mentorship involves actively listening to your mentee, understanding their challenges, and recognizing their aspirations.

"A good mentor always navigates the mentee to a solution or a next step; they don't solve it for them," states Whitney Gonzales, marketing manager at Liingo Eyewear, in a Forbes post.

To solidify your involvement, it's perfectly okay and even welcomed to relate their experiences to your own. By connecting your successes (and more importantly, missteps and failures), to theirs, you play an active role in their journey.

Being an engaged listener shows that you're genuinely interested in your mentee and the choices they're making.

Mentors Deliver Honesty

Sugarcoating or evading honesty doesn't benefit you or your mentee. As a mentor, you provide candid advice and opinions tactfully and constructively.

One approach I use is the 'feedback sandwich' method. For instance:

Positive: "Your project idea is excellent, and you have the skills to execute it."

Constructive Feedback: "Your email to your team members was harsh. Taking a moment to reflect might have led to a different choice of words."

Positive: "Usually, your communication skills are a strong point."

This method is simple but effective. Constructive, honest feedback is more likely to be well-received and less likely to cause defensiveness or embarrassment.

Mentors Practice Empathy

Empathy in mentorship involves understanding your mentee's perspective, even when it differs from yours.

"A common mistake mentors in very technical fields make is assuming a rising-star mentee in the same field will perform, think and act the same way as the mentor did. What might have been the challenge to pass for your generation may not be necessary or applicable now. Don't judge a mentee because they didn't go through the same meat grinder you did to get a promotion," says Business News Daily.

Empathy is complemented by patience, recognizing that everyone progresses at their own pace.

Mentors Provide Resources

A mentor's role extends beyond advice-giving to actively creating learning opportunities for their mentee. This could involve networking introductions or recommending educational webinars, regardless of your expertise in their field.

"Take note of the areas in which your mentee wants to grow, and always be looking for opportunities to point them in the right direction," says Hubspot.

Mentorship is a journey of continuous learning and adaptation. The more time you spend with a mentee, the more effective your mentorship becomes. Each new mentee brings a chance to share more knowledge and experiences.

Being a mentor also offers profound self-learning opportunities. Ultimately, you may discover that the experience of mentoring is as enriching as being mentored.

If you're looking for a mentor, don't hesitate to reach out.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you find a mentee if you're interested in becoming a mentor?

Becoming a mentor starts with knowing where to look for a mentee who shares your enthusiasm for growth and learning. Networking events within your industry present a golden opportunity to meet individuals eager for guidance. Social media platforms, especially LinkedIn, are fertile ground for connecting with potential mentees. Joining mentorship programs offered by professional organizations or signing up on websites dedicated to mentor-mentee matching can also direct you to those seeking mentorship. Remember, expressing your interest in mentoring through your networks can often bring forward mentees who admire your work and aspire to learn from you.

How do you establish boundaries in a mentor-mentee relationship?

Establishing boundaries in a mentor-mentee relationship is essential for keeping the connection productive and respectful. Start by clearly communicating your expectations and availability from the outset. Discuss and agree upon the frequency of meetings, the preferred mode of communication, and the scope of advice you're comfortable providing. Encouraging openness in the relationship is essential, allowing both parties to express concerns or adjust boundaries as the mentorship evolves. Remember, a successful mentorship is built on mutual respect and understanding, ensuring both mentor and mentee benefit from the experience without feeling overwhelmed or infringed upon.

Can you provide examples of challenges mentors face and how to overcome them?

Mentors often need help engaging with unresponsive mentees, bridging differences in opinion, and managing their time effectively. To overcome these hurdles, establish clear communication channels and set realistic expectations about the mentorship's goals and outcomes. When faced with unresponsiveness, try to understand the underlying reasons—be it personal issues or a mismatch in expectations—and adapt your approach accordingly. For differences in opinion, foster a culture of open dialogue and mutual respect where both parties feel valued and heard. Time management can be addressed by scheduling regular, but not overly frequent, meetings and being honest about your availability. Remember, the key to a rewarding mentorship is flexibility, patience, and a genuine commitment to your mentee's growth.

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