Seven Guidelines for Mentoring Others

Mentoring sessions photo

For those who are mentoring someone for the first time, you may be wondering where to begin or what to do to assist your mentee.

Here are seven tips to help you get started working with them and becoming a good mentor.

1: Ask Questions

One of the most important things a mentor can do is ask their mentee questions. When you ask questions, you are seeking clarity, meaning, assisting the mentee in identifying patterns, and guiding them on a path of self-discovery. You never want your mentee to become dependent on you; instead, you want them to be able to outgrow their need for you. You are giving them the tools they need to be independent and be successful by teaching them to ask questions about themselves, the situations they are in, and the decisions they will make.

2: Exchange Thoughts

Mentees seek your advice because they value your opinion. While you don’t want to dominate the conversation or tell the mentee what they should or shouldn’t do, you can certainly offer suggestions for whatever situation they’re in. Ask them if they want to brainstorm ideas together; if they say yes, start a conversation in which each of you shares thoughts and builds on each other’s ideas. Many of their ideas can benefit from your feedback. Hearing options can sometimes be enough to help a mentee decide what they want or do not want to do in their career path or beyond. It can also assist them in seeing options they had not previously considered.

3: Tell a Story

Sharing a story is an excellent way to convey an idea. Stories allow you to connect with your mentee and demonstrate that you understand what they’re going through. It also express to your mentee that they are not alone and that their situation is not unique that someone has been through this before and navigated through the resulting challenges. Stories also allow you to connect with your mentee on a more personal level by revealing a vulnerable side of yourself. This is most effective when you share a story about a time when you failed or struggled. These can be excellent ways to demonstrate how things can be turned around and how a positive outcome can emerge from a negative situation.

4: Go a Little Further

While a mentee should not expect you to solve all of their problems, they should also not expect you to simply listen, nod, and agree with everything they say. Being a mentor entails asking questions and delving deeper into what the mentee is telling you. Perhaps this entails questioning their assumptions and putting them out of their comfort zone. Alternatively, this could imply investigating the reasons why they feel a certain way or believe a certain thing. You can use probing questions to assist the mentee in discovering truths. You can even try asking “why” multiple times in response to each answer the mentee gives you, so you can begin peeling away the layers and getting to the root of the problem for long-term success.

5: Be Compassionate When Listening

Sometimes, though, the best thing a mentor can do is just listen. However, there is a catch. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask questions, tell stories, or do anything else suggested here, but you should be aware of when your mentee needs you to stop talking and start listening. Compassion should guide your listening. Try to comprehend your mentee’s point of view and any outside influences that may manifest themselves through what the mentee says. After you have listened, you can ask the mentee questions to delve deeper into what has been shared and gain clarity on what the mentee hopes to gain from the conversation. Sometimes we just need to vent, and other times we need to see things from a different angle. Whatever the case may be, pay attention.

6: Provide Encouragement

Mentors are frequently chosen because they have been in a similar situation to the mentee and the mentee wishes to learn from their experience. When this happens, it’s easy to fall into the trap of telling the mentee what they should do, especially since you’ve already been through it. Don’t do it! Instead, encourage the mentee and provide a safe environment in which they can ask questions, share ideas, vent frustrations, and gain a better understanding of the situation. Encourage your mentee to persevere in difficult situations, cheer them on as they attempt a new (or unpleasant) task, and rejoice with them when they learn and grow.

7: Introduce yourself.

One of the reasons someone might ask you to be their mentor is to gain access to your network. If you are comfortable with this situation, then connect your mentee with people in your network who can assist them. But don’t feel obligated to do so; it’s not a requirement that a mentor give their mentee access to their network. If you do this, consider making very targeted introductions with a clear and express purpose that everyone agrees on. You don’t want to place an undue burden on the people in your network, nor do you want to make them feel uncomfortable with your request.

Mentoring someone can be as satisfying for you as it is for the mentee. By being a quality mentor who cares about the relationship and values the journey you and the mentee are on, you can help make the mentor-mentee relationship a wonderful experience for both of you.