Last week, we discussed seven traits of highly successful mentoring programs. Now, let's discuss five mentoring skills that the most successful mentors possess.1. The ability to listen. We're talking active listening and listening without passing judgment. Too often when we listen to someone else talk, we project ourselves onto the other person: what would we do, how would we react, what would we say?
The best mentors always look at the situation from the mentoree's perspective. Getting good at this requires listening closely to what the person is saying—and isn't saying. Think nonverbal cues and subtext, which leads us to our next mentoring skill.
2. The ability to ask compelling questions. Sure, the mentor will occasionally answer questions. But if all the mentor is doing is answering the mentoree's questions, then the relationship isn't operating on full cylinders. It's essential that the mentoree learn how to answer his or her own questions—as well as questions he/she hasn't thought of yet. That's where the mentor comes in, asking those compelling, thought-provoking questions that force the mentoree to dig deep.3. The ability to let someone else direct. Oh, this is a tough one for many mentors, but the best mentors know their job isn't to direct this relationship; it's simply to serve as a sounding board and guide. The mentoree does the heavy lifting and directs where he/she would like this relationship to go.
4. The ability to be tough, when necessary. While it's natural for a friendship to develop between mentors and mentorees, the most successful mentors have no problem offering "tough love" when necessary. That might mean calling out the mentoree on a specific issue or for failing to maintain his or her end of the mentoring contract (e.g. canceling meetings at the last minute).
5. The ability to show compassion and empathy. Likewise, there will be times when the mentor needs to show genuine compassion and empathy for his or her mentoree. Perhaps the mentoree suffered an unexpected setback or was passed over for a promotion, for example. The best mentors know when to be compassionate—and when to nudge the mentoree to get back up, dust himself/herself off, and start all over again.
Can you think of any other mentoring skills that all great mentors possess? Share in the comments. Next week, we'll share mentoring skills that all successful mentorees possess.