Follow These 6 Steps to Become an Effective Mentor

Knowledge is like a garden; if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.
— African Proverb

Becoming a mentor can be an interesting journey. For most it is a natural experience, and one that is enjoyable. I would assume from the start of this blog, that you are either in a mentorship role currently, or that you one day aspire to help others to grow and develop through the lessons and experiences you have had. Whether you where personally approached to be a mentor by an individual, or by the organisation you work for, it’s always good to have a structured road map to follow, and to know what should be expected of you as a mentor. It is a privileged role no matter what the situation is, and one that you want to ensure you manage appropriately, for you, and for your mentee. To help you on this journey I have outlined 6 steps you can take to ensure your mentoring experience, and your mentees desired outcome, is as successful as possible.

1. Be Expectant

The number one priority of any mentoring relationship is to realise that whilst providing mentorship to any individual, this is also an opportunity for your own growth and development. From the get-go, set the foundation of your mentoring relationship on this; that the entire mentoring process is one of give and take, in both directions! As much as it can seem enticing to seem to know all the answers, this is neither fair on you or your mentee. Ensure that both mentor and mentee are comfortable with realising that you both need to be willing participants in this relationship, that you both have an opportunity to grow and develop, and that understanding this is key to the health and longevity of the mentoring relationship.

2. Be Purposeful

Simply put, too many mentoring relationships lack purpose. Without knowing the direction and purpose of these relationships, both mentor and mentee can become frustrated with the results. Take the time to clearly establish, and understand, specific goals, guidelines and expectations with each other. Include clear boundaries of where you focus will be, and what specific goals will be targeted. Whether the core objective is around a specific skill or experience, ensure that you have established the purpose of this relationship, and the expected results from the start. This is essentially the road-map for this relationship. Without knowing where you are going, how will you ever know the route you need to take to get there?

3. Be Transparent

Mentorship is not an opportunity for you to share all the successes you have had, and how you got to the position you are in. We all know that our failures have been our best teachers! Use this mentoring relationship to share your past failures and learnt applications. This is an opportunity to allow a mentee to learn from mistakes they never had to make! Your focus is not to impress your mentee, but have them leaving with the realisation of what they can achieve as a result of the mentoring relationship.

4. Be an Advocate

Look for opportunities to expand your proteges network. Back to point one, you don’t have all the answers, so feel secure to referring your mentee to people who do! Don’t feel like this is a display of weakness, the ability to show your mentee that you are secure in what you know and don’t, will speak volumes, whilst also teaching a very valuable, yet hard learnt, lesson for their career and personal life. Become and guide and an advocate for your mentee, and allow them to grow and develop with the input of others!

5. Be Encouraging

One of the best ways to become encouraging is to discover the art of consistent questions. Questions like “What’s working?” and “What are you doing differently?” are a way to encourage the mentee to form a sense of self awareness, and lead to opportunities to encourage. The ability to enable an individual to discover their own successes and be celebrated, or encouraged is extraordinarily empowering. Which leads on nicely to the final point...

6. Be Empowering

A great mentor should never just answer every question that comes their way. Instead, encourage your mentee to form a sense of independence, ask them to bring their problems, but also a solution to that problem. This fosters a sense of secure independence that allows them to investigate their own solutions, and receive direction and guidance on these. The end goal of any mentoring relationship is to enable the mentee to operate on a level, independently, that otherwise would never have been possible for them alone.

Focus on applying these steps to your mentoring relationships and you will have the foundation of an extremely successful, fruitful, and productive experience. Remember, the end goal is to bring an individual on a journey of self-discovery, enhanced ability, and capable independence, that they otherwise would be unable to gain!

Mentoring, and being a mentee, is a challenging experience, but nonetheless an experience that should be, above all purposeful, transparent, and empowering!