Six tips for becoming a great mentor

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The difference between being a “mentor” and being a “life-changing mentor” involves more than just showing up and showing the mentee how to do the work. It takes time, careful thought, an open mind and a caring spirit.

The heart of being a trusted mentor involves making yourself available to support and advise someone when they need it, delivering that support in a way that makes sense to them, and always keeping that person’s best interests in mind.

Here are some helpful tips that will support your growth as a great mentor:

Take the time to get to know your mentee and allow them to get to know you.

Not all people learn in the same manner or at the same rate. Understanding how to best communicate paves the way for a relationship that easily identifies early challenges. It also builds trust and comfort between the mentor and the mentee. Take a genuine interest in your mentee as a person. Remember that communication is a two-way street, and your mentee may have much to bring to the discussion.

Set expectations together in the very beginning.

Set the ground rules so there can be no ambiguity or misunderstanding of what is expected of both you and your apprentice. People will surprise you when they know how they are expected to perform.

Don't assume anything about your mentee; ask.

Perspective is important to understanding. You are coming from a level of experience and education. Your trainee usually has no basis for truly understanding the “what” or “why” of the task they are trying to learn. It is easy to fall into stereotypes or not see a situation from another person’s perspective. But great mentors recognize that it is their responsibility to break through common assumptions by asking questions and digging deeper.

Know when to wait before giving advice.

Providing advice at the wrong time or in the wrong place will damage your credibility and the lesson to be learned. If you do not have the right information, experience or emotional state to react to a scenario properly, hit pause. Constructive, informed feedback should always be welcome from both of your perspectives.

Always be honest and forthcoming with your own lessons learned.

There is much to be gained by owning your past mistakes and failures. Hiding them will not help your mentee overcome the same errors you have made. There will be plenty of opportunities for your trainee to have their own challenges and discover the strength within themselves to overcome them, just as you had to do. Owning up to your blunders also solidifies your credibility as an honest human being.

Celebrate their achievements.

Dozens of studies have shown that self-esteem and actualization are more important than cash rewards. Building your mentee’s confidence, reinforcing good behavior, and keeping them focused and motivated satisfies that psychological need for recognition.

We cannot predict the world faced by this new generation. Being a great mentor is its own reward when you have provided your mentees with a base for understanding and tools for dealing with the challenges ahead.

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