Have you ever thought about what it takes to be a good mentor?
Mentoring is an essential step in helping people embody their true gifts.
Mentors aren’t always available, yet being there to help someone along the way can entirely change the trajectory of that person’s life.
Applying simple mentoring strategies is an easy & effective way to fill the void for up and coming stars in your area of expertise.
You might wonder if you’re capable of being a good mentor for someone. If you have skills, knowledge, experience then you can help! You can empower the next generation to grow & reach their goals.
Here are some tips to help you get into an effective mentoring mindset.
#1 – Don’t Try To Be Something You’re Not
If you’re going to be a good mentor, it’s important to do it in a way that resonates with who you are.
Part of this is recognizing that you don’t need to have all the answers.
Mentoring is more about the relationships that develop.
Only teach what you yourself know to be true. If you don’t know the answer to a question it’s ok. Be yourself.
Share freely what you do and do not know. If you don’t know how to answer a question, then just share your thoughts on the subject. It’ll be every bit as valuable, and perhaps even more so than simply giving all the answers.
Being real with people produces real relationships that benefit both parties. Mentoring is not a one-way street. Overtime you can rope the mentee into your way of thinking and find a new partner for exploring ideas at the edge of your knowledge.
The end result is that your student should eventually surpass your skills in one or more areas. This is where the term ‘the student becomes the master’ comes from.
It keeps us humble & always looking for new ways to push the edge.
#2 – Share Rather Than Teach
Mentoring is not about overtly teaching someone everything they need to know. It’s more about building relationships. In many cases, simply having the right information won’t be enough to produce the desired result anyway.
There’s a whole cluster of human skills backing any information. If someone doesn’t have the ability to persist, be disciplined & focus on their goals then they’ll never achieve success in any area of life.
Information presented in story can make a far greater difference in someone’s life. Sharing from your heart bypasses any resistance & helps people forge their own direction. This ensures they gain the right knowledge within the appropriate context of life lessons like persistence, self-awareness & hard work.
Everyone has to take their own journey to where they want to go. When you share from your experience then others learn about your journey. Your mentee will be instructed not just by the end result, but by the whole journey from what inspired you to how you went about the growth process.
#3 – Create “Surface Area”
You wouldn’t be able to build a friendship if you only ever spoke to someone once. Nor can you be a good mentor if you only ever speak to someone once or twice.
Good friends make a point of creating time to talk & connect. Maybe it’s on a weekly basis, or monthly. But the key is that meeting is a routine, rather than a one-off coaching session.
Over time friends start to take on each other’s qualities. They begin to adopt complimentary worldviews that reinforce certain behaviors. This is essentially the gift you’re giving to someone as a mentor. It’s called surface area.
Surface area is the key to invisible learning, which is much more powerful than formal education. The more surface area you have with a person, the more your skills & ideas will be transferred. This doesn’t mean you have to be “teaching” the whole time.
In many cases the interactions that take place behind the scenes are infinitely more powerful than any sort of formal education context. Simply being with a person is all you really need to create impact.
Some of the most significant mentoring experiences I’ve had in my life came in informal settings. Mentoring doesn’t take place in the classroom. It takes place in the restaurant, on phone conversations, & informal events.
This is why so many people talk about the importance of environment in personal development. If you put a mediocre student with a group of high functioning students, that student will begin to improve.
Likewise, If you put a good student amongst a group of under achievers, that student will begin to degrade. This can all happen without any conscious awareness on the part of the student.
This is the power of surface area to transfer not just skills & knowledge, but a whole new way of thinking about problems & attitude towards life.
#4 – Don’t try to solve all their problems
Your job as a mentor is not to solve anyone’s problems. Challenges in life are really lessons in disguise.
If people have the personal support they need then they’ll solve all their own problems and learn some important life skills along the way.
The job of a mentor is more to be a listening ear.. to be a non-judgmental partner who believes strongly in the potential of that person.
If all you do is solve someone’s problems then you breed dependency. This doesn’t mean that you can’t share your thoughts & ideas about how you would approach it. But make sure you honor that everyone is different.
Your way isn’t necessarily the best for everyone.
In doing this you tell people that they’re in control of their life and you also have their back to listen & provide feedback when things aren’t going so well.
Deep down, people need to hear the message that they have the inner ability to prevail all by themselves. Approaching problems in this way not only helps people move forward in work & in life, but it gives the deep inner conviction that anything is possible for them.
Letting them solve their problems teaches life skills of success.
#5 – Give More Questions Than Answers
One of the best mentoring strategies is to ask questions & get curious.
Curiosity is associated with learning.
Rote memorization can be achieved without curiosity, but that’s not mentoring.
Whenever you ask a question, the brain of your listener continues looking for an answer for about 3 minutes (even if only on an unconscious level). Questions cause our awareness to expand & seek new information.
When you ask people about things they are very familiar with, it elicits a sense of confidence. When you ask about things that are more unfamiliar, it shines light on the holes in their knowledge.
You want the person who is learning from you to be engaged with states of curiosity, passion & discovery. If the learning process becomes boring or predictable they might lose interest. You have to constantly demonstrate that there’s more to learn.
The artful use of questioning can invisibly yet directly guide people to develop deeper competence with what they already know, and push them into areas they’re as yet unfamiliar with.
This is the foundational key for helping people reach mastery in any subject.
As time goes on you’ll probably devise your own mentoring strategies that work for your own purposes.
One of the most important elements to making a difference this way is making the commitment to mentoring.
Always keep your eyes open for people that could benefit simply from having you in their life. Make a conscious choice to phone them and check in every so often. Invest in that relationship & let it build. You’re there to inspire people to greater heights.
Orient them when they don’t know how to proceed. Ask them how things are going, what are they learning, & what they’re going to do next. Let them work through their own issues, but also draw them back to the big picture when they get lost.
Most of all, people need someone to believe in them.
You have to believe that people have far greater capability than they see in themselves.
The more you can see and communicate that potential to people, the more they’ll step out and grow in their own unique way.