Approaching the role of a mentor can be an exciting time. Often, the opportunity is filled with excitement, with feelings of validation and optimism for all the lessons and wisdom you’ll be able to impart to mentees. However, as the time draws near to begin the mentorship engagement, questions arise on how to best fulfill the role. This is not an uncommon phenomenon.
WIthin this article, we look to eliminate potential mentor second guessing with 6 best practice principles to solidify your approach to this critical role.
While general in nature, each should be viewed as foundational pillars to best engage with mentees.
- Every mentee will have different needs
Just as any meaningful relationship in life is unique in nature, so is the case as in mentor/mentee relationships.. In approaching your role as mentor, the temptation might be to try and “templatize” or to take a cookie-cutter approach to your efforts.
Don’t do it.
An unwritten principle within the marketing industry helps to illustrate this logic:
Your audience is smarter than you think they are,
Meaning, don’t try to fool the audience with subpar one-size-fits-all tactics, because it’s only a matter of time before they backfire. This careless approach will lead to dissatisfaction from both parties.
Instead, treat each mentorship with careful consideration and logic specific to the obstacles and challenges that the mentee may be facing. As you do so, trust will be built, unity enhanced, and real difference can be the result.
- Listen, and then listen more
As a mentor is an individual who is perceived to have relevant advice and answers, it is easy to succumb to the pitfall of wanting to speak first and give orders, rather than to begin by listening. True understanding, empathy, and action leading to results will ever be formed through engagements which feel like extended lectures.
A critical truth for any mentor wanting to be embraced must be through the ability to show emotional intelligence.
Simply put, to listen.
Think of a leader in your life who made a profound impact along the way. Whether it was a co-worker, boss, coach, religious leader, or beyond, it’s likely that person made a difference because they made you feel heard. They listened.
The strongest advice is unlocked after the particulars of a scenario are understood. By following this pattern, you’ll be one step closer to establishing yourself as a mentor who made a difference – because they first listened, then listened more.
- Fundamentals and Success
John Wooden was a celebrated basketball coach largely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in the history of college athletics. His teams at UCLA were seemingly unbeatable, during one stretch winning a stunning 12 national championships in a row. A feat likely to never be matched or duplicated.
Wooden was known for beginning the first practice of each new season by stating “we will begin by learning to tie our shoes.” As you might expect, this directive was met with skepticism and confusion from incoming players as the coach would teach his team how to tie shoes snugly, properly, thereby eliminating potential issues. Wooden stated “Get a blister in a big game, and you’re gonna suffer. Shoes come untied in a close game… well, that just never happens here.”
The coach understood that fundamentals can mean all the difference between success and failure.
If fundamentals are understood and executed upon properly, objectives are far more likely to be met.
WIthin your approach as a mentor, look to begin at 5 miles per hour, rather than 75. Establish trust by building the relationship sequentially and brick by brick. This will empower your mentee with a stronger holistic knowledge and added clarity to their own circumstances.
- Don’t connect all the dots
The best storytellers understand that they don’t have to give every detail to make them memorable.
As a mentor, it’s imperative to remember that during an engagement, mentees will often arrive at their own conclusions along the way. This isn’t a bad thing. Afterall, the mentee has far more details pertaining to their own unique situations. If empowered by a supportive mentor, them mentee should feel they can accomplish what they need to because the proper structure and strategy has been established..
The play by play directive strategy can often do more harm than good, as it won’t allow a mentee to learn their own lessons, in their own way.
By taking a macro approach than micro, the mentee can connect dots themselves and with increased personal confidence being a result.
- Embrace Optimism
We’ve all heard the quote that attitude determines altitude.
Even if cliched, it holds truth.
Your attitude and demeanor as a mentor must be one of optimism and positivity. Afterall, a mentor who is pessimistic and negative remains a mentor, but one releasing more of the negative emotions into the equation.
Perhaps it was Bruce Lee who said it best:
“Optimism is a faith that leads to success”
The world has enough pessimism. Your responsibility is to be optimistic, to look for the positives at each step, and to be a constant supporter. Your mentee will follow suit.
- Challenge Appropriately
Your role is one that is to be synonymous with change. Change for the better, change to increase, change to avoid pitfalls, change that is lasting, change in mindset, the list goes on and on.
Challenges will produce change.
But there must be a sweet spot. Don’t overwhelm your mentee, but push them enough to capture meaningful growth.
Going back to the first principle of this article, every mentee will have their own unique needs. Respect each mentee individually and challenge appropriately.