Whether you’re an experienced mentor or taking on a mentee for the first time, you’ll benefit from learning and/or reinforcing certain personality traits that will greatly enhance your mentoring skills. We all have different personalities and attitudes, and both can change over the course of time with experience. Below is a list of some good habits that can be picked up along the way to becoming a better mentor.
The ability to listen: Being a good listener is one of the most important qualities a mentor can possess. It communicates to your mentees that you care about them and value what they have to say. It builds trust by allowing mentees to explain and share issues openly. If a mentee senses that you will listen to him or her without judgment or interruption, they’ll be more likely to share thoughts and opinions they feel strongly about. Listening with patience and understanding will allow you to connect with your mentees on a deeper level.
The ability to empathize: There’s a difference between being sympathetic and being empathetic. Being empathetic to your mentees’ struggles is not just about compassion; rather, it is about personally identifying with the experiences your mentees are going through. Empathy demonstrates that you understand the challenges they face, and that you’ve faced those same challenges in your own career. Showing true empathy will assure mentees that you are concerned with their betterment, and that they have your full support in the career choices they make. The connection forged by empathy can build a mentoring relationship that will sustain for years to come.
The ability to give constructive feedback: Providing constructive feedback to your mentees puts them in a space where they can acknowledge their weak areas. Acknowledgement is the first step in turning those weaknesses into strengths, and your feedback is the catalyst. By evaluating the progress of a mentoring program, you as the mentor can draw conclusions and prepare feedback for your mentees that is designed to challenge them and encourage them to work harder. This trait in a mentor will add more value to mentoring sessions, and will motivate mentees to continually put forth effort to improve.
Maintaining professionalism: Professionalism is a key factor in any mentorship program, because your mentee looks up to you as an experienced individual and expert in your field. By reinforcing expectations, documenting sessions, maintaining time-schedules, giving regular feedback, and holding mentees accountable, you’ll maintain professionalism throughout the relationship and communicate to mentees that you take the program seriously.
Accepting innovative ideas: Your role as a mentor is to be a guide and trusted advisor who never imposes your ideas or biases on your mentees. A mentor must be open to new and innovative ideas shared by their mentees. This is especially applicable for mentors in a startup where entrepreneurs are bubbling with ideas. If you don’t understand an idea or don’t believe in its feasibility, then it’s your job to clarify by asking questions and to clearly outline your reservations. Your goal is not to discourage ideas that are unfamiliar to you, but to motivate mentees into explaining how they would make them work.
Sharing skills and knowledge without hesitation: An ideal mentor does not see his/her mentee as a competitor or a threat. Your job is to help your mentees grow, which means you must be willing to share essential professional and personal skills. By giving mentees an opportunity to learn from the knowledge you have gained, you are giving them an advantage that perhaps you never had in your career, and that is extremely rewarding.
Staying positive: As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Likewise, mentoring cannot produce great results overnight. It takes patience, commitment, and perseverance to give mentees the time they need to grow and learn. Even though challenges may arise and frustrations may brew, it helps to stay positive and maintain a cool head. Your actions and words in this regard will teach mentees the value of maintaining a positive attitude.
Mentors who possess these traits will have consistent success with their mentorships. Write them down on a piece of paper and return to it on a regular basis to check in and make sure you're constantly exhibiting these traits in your mentorships.
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