7 Keys to Becoming an Outstanding Mentor
Sep 23, 2008 Young Learners 1667 Views
Many of us are either thinking of becoming a mentor or are already involved in some kind of a mentoring relationship (either formally or informally). Yet very few of us have ever received formal training on how to be a mentor. As mentors we do our best to help our mentees. We take time out of our busy schedules to spend time with our mentee. Since we are taking this time to give to others, let’s make it as positive and beneficial as it can be! In my life coaching and mentoring work, I’ve come across some key ideas that have brought me tremendous success in establishing valuable relationships with my clients and mentees. Are you ready to take your mentoring skills to a new level? I’d like to share a few of these ideas with you today.
1. Take the time to care.
When you first meet your mentee, you may feel that you do not have many things in common with your mentee. Your mentee may be of a different race, gender or culture than you. They may be from the city and you from the suburbs or vice versa. They may be Hispanic and you may be African American. But, no matter what, you do hold commonality with them. You are human and so are they. You have dreams and so do they. You have feelings and so do they. You want success in life and so do they. So, take the time to relate to them. Show you care by taking the time to get to know them personally. Don’t assume you know them. We all have our own stories, our own histories and future stories we want to create. We all get annoyed when people think they know us but in reality, have no clue who we are at all. To be the best mentor you can be, you must take the time at the outset of the mentoring relationship to find out who your mentee is.
2. Treat your mentee as an equal.
A great mentor does not see themselves as better than their mentee, but instead sees themselves as an equal to the other person. Treat your mentee as you would want to be treated. You would never want a mentor to look down on you or act as if they were better than you. You may have achieved great things in your career and brought tremendous wealth to yourself. Keep in mind that you were once at a point, at a beginning, without these successes that you have in your life now. You are just like your mentee. You are only at a different point on your path than they are. Dive into life with them where they are.
You are successful and that is why they are looking to learn from you. There is no need to flaunt your success. Share ideas, opportunities, and lessons learned from your path so that you can inspire and help them to become who they want to be. Treat your mentee with respect. As you do this, you will see that the respect they have for you will grow and you will create an environment where they will be comfortable opening up to you about their questions and concerns.
3. Try on your Mentee’s shoes.
Take time to imagine how it would be to stand in your mentee’s shoes for a day. Envision it in your mind. Try to see things from your mentee’s perspective before you tell them your perspective. Your mentee wants to be heard and understood. By standing in their shoes, you can gain better perspective on the situations in their lives and the feelings they have.
Many of us have heard over and over: Take time to listen. “Listening” is preached to us so often, so why is it so hard to do? When you are with your mentee, you must turn off the “to do” list in your mind. This is challenging. Would you feel valued if the person you are talking to is distracted? Of course not. So ensure that your mentee knows that you see their worth by giving him or her your full attention.
Turn off your pressures and stresses during the time that you spend with them. Take the time to fully focus on what you are doing with them – focus on the conversation you are having, the emotions you feel in the room as you talk. Look into their eyes, really look into their eyes deeply. Breathe. Stop your own mind so you can hear them completely.
When preparing for a meeting with a mentee, try this strategy: Take a piece of paper and spend 5 minutes jotting down everything that is on your mind at the moment – list the to-do’s, write down your feelings and worries and stresses. Get it all out on paper. Then, fold up the paper and put it in your pocket. Nothing on that paper is going to change during the time you spend with your mentee. The information is safely stored. So, be fully present with your mentee and listen intently to what they are saying.
5. As you Listen, be on the look-out for Limiting Beliefs.
Listen not only to what your mentee is saying, listen to what they are saying between the lines. Listen to hear underlying beliefs they may hold about themselves that keep them from being their best and hold them back from achieving the success they deserve. You may hear them say, “I’m not sure if I can do it.” What does that really mean? As their mentor, you should hear what they are really saying: “I’m afraid I don’t have the ability to do it.” As their mentor, you could reflect this back to them and show them that they could choose another way to look at the situation. They could replace their fear and insecurity with a new idea: “I can do anything I desire.” You may need to model these words for them. You may need to reinforce this idea with them on a regular basis. Over time, they will become more aware and will begin to see they have choice in how they view themselves.
See beyond their fears and self-imposed limitations for them. Express to them that they can and will do anything they put their heart too. Remind them how powerful they are to create their destiny. Infuse them with power. Help them see that they can replace this belief with a more helpful one. Help them to move from – “not sure if I can because I doubt myself” too “I can and will do anything I desire for my life-- anything is possible for me if I believe and follow my heart”.
6. Remind the person you are mentoring to follow their heart.
By following their heart, by following their passions, your mentee is guaranteed success. Remind your mentee to listen to their heart as they make career and life decisions. So many of us are trained to do what looks good to others and to do what society deems good for us. But, then we find ourselves miserable in jobs we can do but jobs that we don’t love. Remind your mentee that in their deepest heart, they truly know what will bring them joy in their life. So, as they approach decisions, rather than looking outside of themselves for the answers, remind them to go inside and listen to how they feel.
Recommend to your mentee to take time for silence. If they can relax into times of silence, they will hear their own inspired voice speak—it will tell them of the path in life that will bring them joy and peace. Only they can know what they truly want. Because you don’t know what is in their heart, keep pointing them inside to find their answers. The answers they find inside their hearts will lead them to the success they desire for their lives.
7. Hold the “Space for the Possible” for your mentee.
By seeing the limitless possibilities in front of your mentee, you hold the space open for amazing possibilities to happen in their journey. As their mentor, you can envision a step ahead and far beyond where they currently are in their career path. As you look at them right now, you see the potential they have. You encourage them to see beyond barriers and limitations. You show them they can be, do and have anything they truly desire for their lives.
Has anyone ever done that for you? In high school, my basketball coach, Coach Price did that for me. When I had no idea what a basketball was or how the game worked, Coach Price looked at a tall 16 year old girl and saw a shining star. I was not a basketball player. I had never played the game. But he saw beyond what I was and looked at the potential I had to become a great basketball player. He had no idea the greatness that was possible, but he saw far enough ahead of me on my path to inspire me to give basketball a try. The more I developed as a player, the more Coach envisioned further success for me. He saw my greatness before I could see it.
He always reminded me to be sure that what I was choosing to do was something I wanted really to do – did I truly want to pursue basketball? I had to make that choice for myself. But, if I did, he could paint a beautiful picture of what it would be like if I desired to move further. Thus, I attended camps, I was recruited by schools and I landed at Princeton to complete my college career.
Because my mentor could see ahead of me on my path, he could hold the space and dream of the possible for me. He could see a vision of what I could be if I desired it. See the possibilities for your mentee. Hold the space of possibility for them. Then watch them grow and expand into those possibilities!
Many of you are outstanding in your careers. You are known for your successes. Take the time to give back to the next generation. You never know how a mentee may blossom and how you may inspire the person to rise to their full potential. There could be no greater reward than hearing someone say, “You made a difference in my life. Because of you, I am lifted up, because of you I have achieved my potential.”
Let’s join together to inspire and ignite a future generation of leaders. Take the time to practice these simple, practical tips to becoming an outstanding mentor. By being a mentor, your life is making a difference!