More and more of us are using mentors to help us build our careers and, hopefully, succeed in the professional world. While the idea of coaching is not new, technology and greater awareness have opened up the world of successful mentoring to a much wider portion of the working population.
Entrepreneurs have always mentored each other over the years and it’s certainly a big part of higher education. With so much coaching resource available then, what separates a mediocre mentor from a great one?
The answer is quite simple: Inspiration.
Mentors can be found in many workplaces today, particularly large corporations, usually helping those who want to develop their careers.
Anyone can become a mentor. It’s a role that can be rewarding for the coach as well as the person being mentored. But it’s also a huge responsibility and requires careful thought and preparation on both sides.
Ideally, mentors should have certain core characteristics that set them apart from your average teacher.
As a successful mentor you need to believe in the person who you are mentoring. This is not always easy in a company where your charges are often foisted upon you by circumstances.
You want your mentee to feel confident in letting down their guard and discussing things honestly with you. That takes a lot of work and getting to know the person on a more intimate level.
A great mentor is not afraid to be honest, even if it hurts the mentee’s feelings. Only then can they help an individual develop their potential, navigate the politics of management and leadership and aim higher.
Successful mentoring is also a two way street. While you may be providing the bulk of the support to your mentee, you’re going to learn from the as well.
Finally, and most importantly, mentors need to inspire and help their charges move beyond where they are now.
The Key to Successful Mentoring
Commitment on your part is crucial to successful mentoring.
This is not an ad hoc relationship that you can dip into and out of whenever you like. It means being there when your mentee needs you most.
Many businesses are starting to looking further afield when choosing good mentors – they understand that outside knowledge and expertise can be invaluable. You could, therefore, find yourself mentoring someone from a totally different industry sector than you are used to.
Good listening skills are vital too though they’re not always an easy thing to develop. Really listening as opposed to ‘just listening’ is something you develop consciously.
If you’re a good mentor, the chances are you will spend a good deal more time listening than you spend talking.
Mentors also need to be able to see the other side of things and for that you must have compassion and understanding. That also means you need to care a good deal.
As a mentor, you can’t afford to be closed off from the world. How would you ever learn or teach anything new if you were?
Some mentees can be outgoing and perhaps over-confident, others may be acutely aware of their own vulnerabilities.
Being able to deliver the support and guidance your mentee needs may depend on a number of different circumstances including how you gel as personalities.
Finally, there’s no value in off the shelf mentoring where ideas are simply phoned in rather than carefully considered. That’s why both mentor and mentee need to make careful choices when choosing their partner.