When it comes to mentoring, I think that this means many different things to many different people. To some it means creating someone in their own image, to others its about providing support and guidance to others during the early stages of their careers.
I have read several books on mentoring and have never found a consistent approach to it, in fact, the only consist thing is that someone older mentors someone younger.
I have mentored many people, it’s something I am often asked to do, and I always look to take the same approach.
I look to create a trusting relationship, where they can tell or ask me anything, I believe that trust is one of the main keys to a Mentoring Relationship and everything we talk about is confidential.
I let them set the agenda, they choose the topics that we talk about, and I always look to be supportive, constructive and never critical.
I try to learn about them, their families, their passions, their goal, this always helps me to find the areas in which I can be of assistance, if requested.
I see mentoring in much he same way as I see coaching, our goal is to get people thinking, asking questions, probing, helping them to come up with answers.
I try not to provide direct answers to specific issues, such as I would do this, but to give some options, and get them to discuss them and see which, if any, is best suited to their situation.
I do look to challenge, and ask why not, why can’t you do this. Sometimes people need a little push, it’s not that they are lazy or anything, it’s that they lack confidence, or are just unsure. Or maybe they have an idea and want to bounce it off someone to get a better understanding and see whether they have considered all possibilities.
Just recently I mentored a friend, he wanted my opinion on a job he had been approached about, he felt the role was too senior for him, that he wasn’t ready, and that he felt maybe he should let it pass this time, and apply in a couple of years.
I could tell from the tone of the conversation that this was something he really wanted to do, so throughout the conversation I kept asking him ‘why not?
After a while, when we had challenged all of his reason as to why not, and he had seen that these were just flimsy and quite easy to overcome, he decided that yes, you’re right I can do this, and I am going to apply for it.
To be fair, all I had done was ask him why not, he already had most of the answers, he just needed someone to listen and help him through the journey.
I did finish by telling him that often I had ended up in positions I would have never had the courage to apply for, and it usually worked out for the best, we are often much more capable than we believe, but hold ourselves back.
He thanked me for the vote of confidence, and was happy for my help, but in reality all I had done was help him help-himself, deep down he knew what he wanted, he just lacked a bit of confidence.
With all of the people I have mentored I am generally in touch with most of them, and even though we don’t have regular meeting they often come back to me and ask me for my thoughts, or just to share a problem they are having difficulties with.
I can honestly say that I learn much from mentoring people, both from their answers to problems, but also my own thoughts on different situations, that it becomes mutually beneficial.
If you get the chance to become a mentor, then I would strongly recommend that you take it, but you should understand why you are doing it, and consider the kind of relationship and mentoring that you will provide, and also what kind of mentoring is it that the mentee wants 🙂