A lot of people would love to be a mentor and an inspiration to someone, but not everyone is cut out for it. A bad mentor can fill their mentees with false hopes and expectations, lead them astray, or have them repeat the mistakes they committed.
Others will try to impose their way of doing things and their view of the world on the people they work with when they should instead be providing their input while letting mentees make their own decisions. This is why you need to understand what being a mentor is really about, and if you have the aptitudes for it. So, do you have what it takes to be a good mentor?
What’s a Mentor Exactly?
Before we talk about what you need to be a mentor, you have to truly understand what one is. A mentor is there to provide support, guidance, feedback to their mentees. They will also guide them towards the proper tools and resources. They might introduce them to techniques or methodologies their mentee didn’t know about. They also often come from the same field as the people they mentor.
Another very important role of a mentor is that of a counsellor. They might be able to provide insights to a mentee if they’re stuck on a decision. This means that your advice could end up changing their whole career trajectories. That’s a lot to take on, and something that’s not for everybody. Mentors can also help their mentees benefit from their list of contacts.
Now that we know a bit more about what mentors do, let’s take a look at some of the qualities you need to become one.
This is the most important one. Mentees will look for someone with expertise that is relevant to them. You also need to have the right foundation to provide mentoring in a structured and efficient way. This is why you will need to look into mentoring and leadership courses. These will not only give you the tools needed to be a good mentor but help you validate your skills as well.
Services like the BCF Group offer an ILM Level 7 coaching course that is tailor-made for directors and senior management. Their ILM level 7 course is perfect if you were thinking of providing executive coaching, or an organisation trying to turn mentoring executives into senior coaches. Their ILM 7 programs can either be taken completely at distance or with a combination of classroom training and self-study.
If you’re not a good listener, this is not the field for you. You not only have to listen, but you also need to be active. You are not there to lecture your mentee. Some love spreading their knowledge around no matter if their audience is there or not. This is about them, not you, and this not a teacher/pupil relationship.
Think of your mentee’s career as a business and you’re a minority owner in it. You are invested in its success, and you can always provide your insight. But, at the end of the day, the mentee has to hold the wheel.
And this is the true goal of a mentor. Not giving speeches spilling out every little thing you know about a specific subject. It’s about guiding your mentee towards things that they need to know but may not be aware of. For this, you need to be able to listen to their issues and know exactly what they need to learn at that exact moment.
Mentors also need to have a great sense of organisation if they want to become successful. This is especially true if you are mentoring many people at once. Mentoring is not a chit chat over coffee. It’s about meeting goals and objectives.
For this, you need a clear plan, benchmarks, assignments, and accountability. Each of your encounters should be well thought out and structured as well. These will also differ depending on the person you’re working with, which means that you’ll need to be adaptable and keep track of everyone’s progress or lack thereof.
Empathy is another essential attribute for any mentor. Being empathetic doesn’t mean being oversensitive or soft. It’s about truly connecting with what your mentor is feeling. It’s about respecting and acknowledging their feelings.
There might be a time when a mentee will be very vulnerable and you might need them to toughen up, but good mentors know how to do this without dismissing their experience. Mentors like these are able to get great results and help mentees awaken parts of themselves they didn’t know existed.
Eagerness to Learn
Good mentors also have to be dedicated to continuous education. You can’t afford to be behind on the most recent technologies and methodologies if you want to be a valuable resource to your mentees. Sure, you might have all the credentials needed, but things change all the time and unless you stay on top of these changes, your advice could end up sounding outdated. This could eventually affect your credibility.
Mentors should also be open to learn from their mentees and accept when they’re more skilled or knowledgeable about a subject. This will also allow you to know which fields your experience could be useful and when you should let them do the thinking.
Mentors also need to be self-aware when they provide advice. They need to be able to check their biases at the door and listen to problems with fresh ears. You also need to be able to see each mentee as different. You cannot let stereotypes affect your opinion of them. You need to know that each one of them is an individual and requires an individual approach and solution.
Being a mentor is a big responsibility and demands a certain kind of personality. There are also some basic skills that you’ll need to master if you want to do a good job. Thankfully, many of them can be acquired or sharpened over time.