Working On Your Mentoring Skills
When did you first become acquainted with the concept of mentoring skills? Think of your days in high school and college. There were good teachers and professors and some who were not so good. Chances are the really good ones had a good set of mentoring skills in their toolkit, while those who were perhaps less helpful towards their students or seemed less interested in giving help or advice, were simply, for whatever reason, poor at mentoring. It's probably fair to say that most teachers who love teaching are better at mentoring and have better mentoring skills than those who look at teaching a merely being a job.
Chances are though you never really gave a thought to mentoring skills until you were getting established in the workplace and had the good fortune to have a mentor who helped you to learn the ropes, or better yet, one who was willing to help guide you along your chosen career path.
It's nice to be on the receiving end of mentoring, to be a mentee. But being a mentor definitely has its rewards. The art of mentoring comes to some more naturally than to others, and more than a few never seem to get it quite right. It may not be for lack of trying or desire, but to be a good mentor it helps to either have had a good role model, or to take formal lessons in mentoring, often taught in a workshop environment.
Respect The Individual - Just what are the mentoring skills one needs to learn and polish? One of the first things to remember is it takes two to tango. Those you choose to mentor are not going to be like peas in a pod, but each one is going to be somewhat of a unique individual. Some will take to being mentored right off the bat, and will hang on your every word. Others may prove more difficult, not necessarily on purpose, but some have to try their own way first, no matter what. Your advice may be regarded as valuable, but not necessarily the only path. That's all right. Even the most proficient of mentors don't have all the right answers or have only good advice to offer.
Be A Good Listener - Some who try to mentor are a little heavy when it comes to the advice side, or to put it more bluntly, are good talkers but poor listeners. The ability to listen is a critical mentoring skill. Not only does listening open doorways insofar as what advice or information needs to be offered, it also allows for feedback. If the mentee never has the opportunity to ask questions, or even at time disputes what the mentor is saying, it can be difficult to judge whether the advice given is taking hold or if it has been good advice.
Provide Feedback - The mentor also has to provide feedback and, when necessary, constructive criticism. A mentor does not give orders, yet still will want to see results. This is especially important when mentoring someone with the intent of helping that person along a career path. If the mentee is seen as veering off on the wrong path, he or she has to be made aware of that. Mentoring often involves a careful balance between praise and constructive criticism. Both are invaluable.
Know The Subject - Finally, networking skills require knowledge of the subjects involved. This seem almost a given, but a good mentor is constantly learning, networking, and researching the newest and latest information to keep up to date on things. A good mentor can point a mentee to valuable resources. A good mentor has to be just as eager to learn as is the mentee.
The above attributes are, in a nutshell, the basic mentoring skills one must have to do the job properly.