The Most Essential Mentoring Skills
There are many reasons to develop mentoring skills. If you’re reading this article, you may be at a point in your career where you’ve achieved some success. Mentoring may be the perfect way to help others looking to tread a similar path.
Unfortunately, being good at your job isn’t enough. Being a mentor is an important responsibility and requires you to learn a specific set of skills. By the end of this article, you will have a good understanding of what the essential mentoring skills are, how to cultivate them, and how to include them in your mentoring relationship.
But what is a mentor
At its heart, it’s about passing on a skill. It’s a relationship where a person with more experience uses their knowledge to help another person’s development.
If you are like 99% of people who have achieved success in their lives, you likely encountered a mentor early on. This person may have taken you under their wing and provided help, advice, or counseling. In all likelihood, this assisted you in furthering your career.
If you’d like to “send the elevator back down,” mentoring can ensure that your hard-earned knowledge continues working to assist the next generation. After all, mentoring is one of the strongest early predictors of success.
Once you’ve finished reading this article, you will have a good knowledge of what mentoring requires.
What Does a Mentor Gain?
The benefits for the mentee are relatively obvious. It is a fantastic shortcut to knowledge, experience, connections, and wisdom that would take years to accrue.
Mentorship benefits are slightly more subtle, but no less significant.
As we grow older, it can seem inevitable that we get set in our ways. Being a mentor to young people can help you keep your finger on the next generation’s pulse. A mentoring relationship can provide an important perspective that is hard to gain elsewhere.
And the only “disadvantage”? Being a mentor isn’t for everyone. Fortunately, the skills to be a mentor can be learned. Like all things worth doing, mentorship will require time and dedication on your part.
What Skills does mentoring Develop?
You will develop a multitude of widely applicable skills if you decide to take the path of mentorship. These include becoming a better leader, broadening your perspective, and enhancing your knowledge base. Becoming a mentor may have some concrete personal and financial gains as well – Sun Microsystems published a study in 2015.
It found that people who had acted as mentors were over six times more likely to be promoted than their colleagues, and 20% more likely to get a salary raise.
What is Effective mentoring?
Being an effective mentor is about more than just telling someone what to think or how to act. You need to arm people with proven strategies to deal with the professional and personal problems they are likely to face.
The benefit of experience places you in a prime position to mentor the next generation to navigate the rough terrain of their chosen field.
These days many companies and organizations recognize the need for mentors at work and even have official mentorship programs.
Whether it is a formal or informal mentoring relationship you seek, there are several vital skills you need to learn.
Essential Mentor Skills
It should go without saying that before you start mentoring someone, you should have accomplished something that other people might want to accomplish as well.
To be an effective mentor requires learning several skills and qualities. Many of these will be dependent on the specific situation, industry, and life experience of both you and your mentee. Still, there are some general skills and qualities that are relevant across professions.
Everyone has their own process, but all successful mentors share several vital skills. The good news is that you can learn and hone these skills like any other. As long as you have the time, desire and expertise, there should be nothing stopping one from pursuing their mentorship goals.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ability to actively listen to your mentee may be the most critical skill to have as an active mentor.
To be a good mentor, you need to be able to ‘read between the lines’ of what someone says and how they say it. As long as you ask open-ended questions, process what’s been said, and follow up those answers, you can be sure you are both on the same page.
Mentorship is a two-way street, and trust may have to be built from both ends. To get the most out of your sessions, it’s essential for your mentee to feel comfortable approaching you for advice. When you listen actively, your mentee can be confident that their concerns are recognized. This way, mutual trust develops.
All mentors will do some amount of teaching work as part of their relationship with their mentees. Expect to help your mentee develop their range of skills through one-to-one tutoring. You may also help further their studies by recommending resources that you yourself have found useful.
Becoming a competent instructor is a process that will require you to recognize individual strengths and weaknesses. There are many different ways that people take in information, and you must be sensitive to this.
An ability to communicate your thoughts clearly is critical. One of the best ways to get mentees to learn actively is to ask insightful questions.
Help your mentee set goals and keep a close watch on their own work performance.
As someone further along your particular career path than your mentee, your very presence in their life will serve as inspiration. You are proof that it can happen. There’s a chance that with the right amount of time and guidance, their life could work out like yours.
It’s certainly something to remember – Never underestimate your power to influence and support others.
The old writer’s adage of “show, don’t tell“ is especially important here. It is an easy trap to fall into, but telling mentees what to do is not your job. It would be best if you inspired your mentee to pursue their own version of success, not dictate how that looks.
Whenever your mentee performs well, make sure to reinforce this with encouragement. Overall it would be best if you tried to encourage with positive feedback more than you correct with negative feedback. Still, some situations will inevitably call for a more critical approach.
Striking the right balance of honesty and empathy is essential – There’s no point in stroking your mentee’s ego! At the same time, giving overly harsh feedback rarely does much good.
Whenever you give feedback, these steps can mitigate the chance of your mentee receiving it poorly:
- Ask permission to give feedback first. This Forbes article notes that by asking permission to provide feedback, you make the person hearing it feel more in control and more likely to take comments on board.
- Employ positive or neutral language and tone of voice when mentees fall short.
- Give feedback as soon as possible and in private.
- Make feedback specific.
- Suggest more optimal approaches.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, if you can use the skills listed above, your likelihood of developing a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship will be significantly improved.