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A few weeks ago, I published an article on “How to Find a Mentor”. It’s not always simple so I hope you’ll check it out.
I believe that finding the right person to be a mentor is key in the mentoring relationship. The other piece is being a good mentor. Honestly, I think a lot of people get asked to be someone’s mentor and they’re so flattered by the request that they say “yes!” without thinking through what’s involved (sound familiar anyone?).
I’ve put together a list of things that a good mentor should have. Use this list two ways. First, if you’re considering becoming someone’s mentor, ask yourself “Can I do these things? And do them well?”. And if you’re asking someone to be a mentor, ask the question “Can they do these things?” And do you believe they will?
- Time management. Being a mentor means giving someone your time. You know your schedule. Do you have the time to do this? Because if you don’t, it’s not fair to say yes and then continuously reschedule or simply not show up.
- Knowledge and skills. You’re being asked to be a mentor for a reason. Maybe it’s because of your expertise in a particular area. Or maybe it’s based on your work experience. Mentors should be comfortable sharing their knowledge and skills.
- Communication and listening. Being a mentor is about listening and sharing. That could be in-person or online. It might also take place verbally as well as in writing. It also means responding with both empathy and enthusiasm.
- Honesty and trust. Excellent mentors are people who can be trusted. Not only with the information the mentee shares with them but also trusted to give good feedback. One of the reasons that someone might be looking for a mentor is because they need someone who will provide direct, honest feedback.
- Open and non-judgmental. Being a mentor isn’t about “judging” the mentee. It’s about listening and offering feedback. It’s okay to not agree on everything. If you do find that you’re disagreeing more than your agreeing, you might need to revisit the purpose of the relationship. But mentoring is about creating an open dialogue.
Mentoring is a great activity. Not only does it feel great to share your experience and knowledge with others, you can also learn a lot along the way. But that will only happen if the mentoring relationship is built on the right foundation.
Mentors come and go throughout our personal and professional lives. If you have to pass on an opportunity, that’s fine. It’s better to say “now is not a good time” or “I can if we redefine expectations…” than to say “yes” and not get the full benefit – for you or the mentee.
According to the site MentorCliq, 92% of all U.S. Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs and 100% of the top 50 U.S. Fortune 500 companies. Mentoring is an incredibly popular activity because it works. That’s why it’s worth the time to learn how to do it well.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Seattle, WA31