Mentors have the potential to have a significant role in the careers and lives of their mentees,and I have certainly benefited greatly from being both a mentee and a mentor. But does everyone have the skills to be a good mentor? Are the key skills and attributes naturally found only in a select few, or can they be nurtured/developed in others?
When Built By Us (BBU) is working on the implementation of a mentoring programme with clients, the questions most asked are about the selection and preparation of mentors. In BBU’s view irrespective of whether prospective mentors are already exhibiting appropriate skills sets and attributes for the role, there is a huge amount of added value and understanding that can be gained by providing opportunities to learn.
While some people naturally have the skills and attributes needed for mentoring – being a good role model and an active listener, having a willingness to share etc. - it’s important to prepare mentors for the application of those skills in the context of this role.
Here are three reasons to train potential mentors
To Ensure Mentors Fully Understand the Role:
There are a number of styles of mentorship, for example, traditional (1-1), Circle Mentoring, and Reverse Mentoring, to name a few. In addition, mentoring as a strategy can be used to tackle a number of different challenges, such as leadership development or support for youth or diversity.
The huge variety of mentoring programme styles can lead to some misunderstandings as to what mentoring is and it is often and easily confused with other forms of bespoke support such as coaching, befriending, counselling, teaching and advising.
Training offers potential mentors an opportunity to better understand the role with regard to expectations and outcomes, while ensuring consistency of approach for mentees. In this way, training has the potential to create multiplier effects for the participants and the programme overall.
2. Grow Confidence
It’s absolutely natural for mentors no matter what they achieved in their careers or their level of experience to be nervous about undertaking the role. New mentors, despite their enthusiasm, may feel that they have “little to share” or believe that their role is to know everything! Getting to grips with any anxieties and learning from more experienced mentors is key to growing the confidence to provide support to others.
3. Set and Challenge Expectations
Potential mentors may come to the role with very particular expectations of their mentees. They may have expectations about their background, perspective or behaviours. In addition, they may have already envisioned an ideal relationship dynamic. It is incredibly important that expectations are explored and where needed, challenged.
Mentoring relationships when they go well, can be powerful catalysts for change in a person’s life. It is worth investing time in preparing potential mentors for success, ensuring that they can contribute fully and confidently to their role.