So what is mentoring?
I see mentoring as a strategy for knowledge exchange, very much led by the mentee or learner. In its traditional form, it is a one-to-one relationship in which the mentor may be a more experienced individual or have experience in the role or area that the mentee is seeking to understand.
The mentor provides guidance where needed but most importantly they create a space where the mentee can explore issues, gain insight and develop solutions to the issues which may be hindering their growth.
While there are synergies with teaching, coaching and other forms of one-to-one developmental relationships, the key differentiator in mentoring is the absence of giving direct instructions to the mentee and the fact that the mentor may have experience in the role the mentee is hoping to develop into.
What skills and attributes are needed to be a mentor?
Deciding to become a mentor to others is one of the most generous acts that an individual can undertake for another person. It is no surprise therefore that the role tends to attract people with a desire to “give back” in some way or to ensure that others can gain the support needed to fully realise their talent.
“Growing other leaders from the ranks isn’t just the duty of the leader, it’s an obligation.” – Warren Bennis
The key skill needed as a mentor is the ability to listen without prejudice and in a world filled with ever-growing distractions the art and skill of truly listening to another person may soon be lost.
Full and active listening is the foundation on which the attributes of good mentors are built including:
The ability to build rapport with their mentoring partner
The ability to create Trust, to be able to rely on a person’s honesty or have confidence in them.
The fundamental ability to communicate effectively with their partner
The ability to Empathise with another person’s perspective, situation or feelings
“In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care. You must care. You don’t have to know how many square miles are in Idaho, you don’t need to know what is the chemical makeup of chemistry, or of blood or water. Know what you know and care about the person, care about what you know and care about the person you’re sharing with.” – Maya Angelou
But surely to be a good mentor I need to be older? Super experienced? Or to have had a near perfect career?
Being a mentor is about the “finished article”. In reality, the best mentors are self-aware and understand their own strengths and shortcomings and they are able to use the lessons they have learned to support their mentee.
“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
It would be easy to imagine that you need to have near-celebrity status in your given discipline to be considered mentoring material - in the programmes I’ve run and the mentoring that I’ve experienced, knowing that my mentor was not perfect, (just like me) really helped to put things into perspective and gave additional credibility to their feedback and comments.
Developing your leadership skills
I am a huge believer in the potential for mentoring to transform the lives of both mentees and mentors. I’ve developed and managed mentoring programmes for over 8 years now and I am constantly amazed and humbled by the positive changes reported by many of the individuals seeking support and those so generously giving their time to others.
While the positive impacts for mentees are expected, it is the way in which the mentors report that they improve their skills as leaders which is most impressive.
Becoming a mentor often offers an opportunity to review your own career, better understand your approach to communication with others or develop a greater awareness of your own management style. All of this and more helps mentors to develop and hone their skills as leaders.
Built By Us is seeking mentors to support new and budding entrepreneurs through the Shape Programme. If you have the commitment and passion to offer your experience and time, do contact us. We’d love to hear from you.