Mentoring is the generous giving of a person's time, knowledge and support to a mentoree. Many of us volunteer to mentor or, if asked, are ready to answer, "yes.” It is this generosity that makes mentoring a powerful experience for mentorees. But being asked to serve and being willing to serve doesn't necessarily mean that you are ready to serve.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself in assessing if you're ready to mentor:
Q: How easy is it for you to sit with someone and listen to their challenges without taking control of the situation?
One of the key skills a mentor needs to have is to be able to refrain from managing the mentoree. It is critical to empower the mentoree to think for themselves and make decisions that are best for him/her. The temptation to resolve an issue quickly by providing too much advice or performing the task of solving the problem instead of letting the mentoree do so is ever present in mentoring. What can be helpful in avoiding this temptation is for a mentor to think of him/herself as "facilitating the development of the mentoree.” If you facilitate, you partner with the other person, and thus avoid controlling the relationship.
Q: How easy is it for you to share some of your mistakes with others to assist them in avoiding the same mistakes?
A mentoring relationship develops trust between both partners. This element of trust allows for a mutual dialogue based upon honesty and respect. One of the ways to build trust quickly is to be willing to share the mistakes that a mentor has made over time and what lessons they learned as a result. When being vulnerable in this way, it lets the mentoree know that you trust them with this information and opens the door for them to do the same. Without this kind of sharing, the relationship may remain more polite and professional but without the depth possible in creating a true mentoring relationship.
Q: In general conversations, how often are you the listener instead of the talker?
Listening is one of the most important skills a mentor should have. Having good listening skills provides several advantages:
(1) It allows the mentoree to do most of the talking and the person doing most of the talking is doing most of the work.
(2) It allows you to avoid the temptation to take control of the relationship.
(3) It allows the mentoree to be responsible for arriving at the solutions that will work best for them.
If you're going to mentor, review your most recent conversations with others and assess whether you have a pattern for speaking more often than not. It will be important to know this and to make a conscious effort to listen more if you are going to be a mentor.
These questions and more are part of our new eBook: Mentoring Readiness: Instrument for Mentors. If you are interested in learning more, click the image to the right. You will be directed to Management Mentors' ebook page on Amazon. Be sure to scroll down to find this eBook.