Mentors are people who are generous at heart and have the best interests of the mentoree when working with them. Even so, new mentors can sometimes make inadvertent mistakes that can pose a problem now or in the future for the mentoring relationship.
Here are a few common mistakes made by new mentors to be aware of:
1. You are eager to provide solutions to your mentoree. With your wealth of experience and knowledge, you may often have the quick solution to your mentoree's issue. But wait!
The real value of a mentor is not to provide the answers but to help your mentoree find the answers that work best for them. Tweet this!
It's the old adage about the difference between feeding and teaching someone to feed themselves. So as a new mentor, learn how to ask open ended questions: who, what, when, where and why have always served to allow a mentoree to uncover the real issues that affect their success in a given situation. So think of yourself as a poser of questions as opposed to the problem solver.
2. You take on too much responsibility for the mentoree. You are excited about being a new mentor and want to help as much as possible—even going beyond the call of duty. You meet more often than you probably should. You do extensive research before each meeting. You feel responsible for your mentoree's success. Be careful! Your enthusiasm could overwhelm your mentoree and/or they could welcome all of this attention at the cost of abrogating their responsibility to drive this relationship. Remember, your mentoree's success is due to their own commitment to grow and do the things necessary to grow. Your role is simply to assist in that process.
3. You're really coaching instead of mentoring. One of the key success elements in mentoring is the trust built over time between the mentor and mentoree. This involves being able to share one's vulnerable spots and to engage in personal conversations that go beyond the immediate work environment. Sometimes new mentors are uncomfortable with sharing the personal, preferring instead to stay on a level of discussing competencies and how to accomplish them and avoiding the more critical part that hinders their ability to achieve their goals. Often, the true reason for lack of success on any given issue is personal: one's lack of self-confidence, how one communicates, how one is perceived by others. This is much more personal than discussing a financial skill or how to generate a sales report. Once you've been meeting with your mentoree for a while, ask yourself: "how well am I getting to know the real person in front of me so that I can better understand what real issues impact their success?" If you don't know, then it's time to ask. It's not difficult just say: "I'd like to know and understand better about what really hinders you in your interactions with others. Would you be willing to share some of that with me?" If you open the door, the mentoree will enter.