The Importance of Mentoring (Part 2)

So you think you want to be a mentor? 

Ok, fine.  Ask yourself the following questions…

  1. Why do you want to do this?

  2. What do you know that can be helpful to others? 

  3. What do people say about you?

As you ponder these questions, keep in mind the following.

Why do you want to do this? 

Simply put, it’s not about you!  Okay, maybe a little but the focus isn’t on you.  Rather it is on the person you are mentoring.  Your motivation must be on how you can help the mentee.  It’s easy (and a trap) to talk about yourself during conversations.  To keep the focus in-balance, remember:

Listen, listen, listen.  Try to keep them talking 70% of the time. 

Keep an open mind.  This means “listen to your listening”—that little voice we all have in our head.  Sometimes it can get in the way of actively listening.

Ask questions to get them talking and to clarify their answers.  Prepare questions before each conversation, when possible, that provoke their thinking and analysis. Prepare follow-up questions.

Avoid telling personal story after story, endless examples, and meaningless anecdotes.  Instead, utilize your experience and expertise.  Choose the most meaningful and appropriate examples.  Never make up examples.  If you don’t have something to share, refer them to another person or resource.

What do you know that can be helpful to others?

Take the time to analyze your:

  • experience—what you’ve done

  • expertise—what you know

  • resources—who you know (people and places)

A careful and thoughtful examination of these will help you determine, first off, if you are a good match for a mentee.  If so, it will help your conversations and, in particular, in choosing the best examples and advice.

Be candid and forthright in your discussions.  Give them a balanced view of what you know, how you learned it, and what you’re still learning.  Particularly that last one—by talking about what you are learning it will encourage their development.  You will be setting a good example!

Network in your organization, profession, and community—not only for you but you may need other people and places to refer mentees for information.  And we all know that networking is a key to success for so many reasons.  In doing so, you not only benefit yourself but you teach them the benefits from networking.

What do people say about you?

This may seem odd or uncomfortable when thinking about mentoring but you should spend some time honestly understanding what others say about you—your leadership, empathy, ability to communicate, knowledge, etc.  These are qualities that will be needed. 

Review and analyze performance reviews, feedback reports, and informal conversations.  Ask your closest confidants, colleagues, and those who know you best.  Look for common patterns and themes.  If you…

  • are a good listener

  • display a genuine interest in helping others

  • have useful knowledge

  • can make time for others

…then you should be a successful mentor.

If you don’t, simply refer the mentee to someone who you believe has these characteristics.  (And remember, it’s not about you…as said earlier.)

Becoming a mentor can be rewarding.  Helping someone else grow and develop by sharing your wisdom, experience, and knowledge is very satisfying.  Taking the time to determine if you have what it takes to be a mentor will help you and your mentee. 

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