According to Management Mentors these are the skills needed to mentor:
- Open mindedness. Everyone needs to open their minds to new ways of thinking. It’s not always easy, and it will likely be an ongoing process throughout the mentoring relationship. The point is to be aware of what you’re thinking…and how it’s affecting the relationship.
- Active listening. When you actively listen, you’re fully engaged with the other person. You’re focused on what he or she is saying, and you reinforce what the person is saying by offering nonverbal cues, such as eye contact and nodding your head. Active listeners are alert, sit up straight, ask questions, and show their sincere interest in what the other person is saying.
- Tough questioning. The way to dig deeper into an issue is by asking questions, and sometimes the most important questions are hard to ask.
- Total honesty. It’s not always easy to be completely honest, but it’s important. Of course, to be honest, you need to feel safe.
- Deeper reflection and self-awareness. It’s easy to want to move away from the challenging conversations and onto easier subjects. But the most successful mentoring relationship won’t allow for this. Taking time to reflect can help us grow. Which is the whole point, right?
To be a good mentor, you need similar skills to those used in coaching, with one big difference – you must have experience relevant to the mentee’s situation. This can be technical experience, management experience, or simply life experience.
According to Mind Tools, to be an effective mentor, you need to:
- Have the desire to help – you should be willing to spend time helping someone else, and remain positive throughout.
- Be motivated to continue developing and growing – your own development never stops. To help others develop, you must value your own growth too. Many mentors say that mentoring helps them with their own personal development.
- Have confidence and an assured manner – we don’t mean overconfidence or a big ego. Rather, you should have the ability to critique and challenge mentees in a way that’s non-threatening, and helps them look at a situation from a new perspective.
- Ask the right questions – the best mentors ask questions that make the mentee do the thinking. However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. A simple guide is to think of what you want to tell the mentee, and to find a question that will help the mentee come to the same conclusion on their own. To do this, try asking open questions that cannot be answered with just yes or no. Or ask more direct questions that offer several answer options. Then ask the mentee why they chose that particular answer.
- Listen actively – be careful to process everything the mentee is saying. Watch body language, maintain eye contact, and understand which topics are difficult for the mentee to discuss. Showing someone that you’re listening is a valuable skill in itself. It shows that you value what the person is saying and that you won’t interrupt them. This requires patience, and a willingness to delay judgment.
- Provide feedback – do this in a way that accurately and objectively summarizes what you’ve heard, but also interprets things in a way that adds value for the mentee. In particular, use feedback to show that you understand what the mentee’s thinking approach has been. This is key to helping the mentee see a situation from another perspective.
Remember, mentoring is about transferring information, competence, and experience to mentees, so that they can make good use of this, and build their confidence accordingly. As a mentor, you are there to encourage, nurture, and provide support, because you’ve already “walked the path” of the mentee.
Also remember that mentoring is about structured development – you don’t have to tell the mentee everything you know about a subject, at every opportunity.
Types of Mentoring
There are two main types of mentoring:
- Developmental mentoring – Mentor is helping the mentee to develop and learn new skills and abilities. The mentor guides and provides resources for the mentee’s growth.
- Sponsorship mentoring – Mentors acts more of a career influencer and takes a close interest in the progress of the mentee. The mentor “opens doors”, influencing others to help the mentee’s advancement.