How to Mentor

I wrote a while back about why you need a mentor, but it is also just as important to be a mentor. What I want to briefly discuss is how to mentor well. There will always be people that can benefit from learning about what you’ve been through, lessons you have discovered and mistakes you have made. Here are a few simple steps to learn how to be a great mentor.

Focus on Their Needs, Not Yours

Many mentors begin a partnership with a mentee by giving a long-winded lecture, having a lot of material prepared for the first few meetings or creating a plan for the relationship. Avoid focusing on what you think the other person needs and instead spend the entire first meeting figuring out exactly what they need or want from you.

This approach will do a number of things that will benefit the relationship in the long-run. It will:

  1. Show the mentee that they are the most important focus of conversation.
  2. Save time wasted on topics that aren’t of interest to the mentee.
  3. Eliminate non-value added discussions.
  4. Keep the mentee interested in continuing the partnership.

Only when a mentee is genuinely interested in the relationship will anything positive come of it.

Ask Them the Questions

When a mentor relationship is being built the mentee is usually put in the position of asking all of the questions. While this can be helpful at first for the mentee to learn about the mentor’s experiences and gain useful advice, for the relationship to really grow to its fullest the questions need to be addressed in the opposite direction. The best way of learning how to mentor is by finding out what the mentee is thinking.

"Nothing pains some people more than having to think." - Martin Luther King Jr.

When they are the ones that have to come up with what to say about themselves, they gain the experience in conveying their thoughts. So much of school these days is just students cramming for tests, regurgitating the information and forgetting about it all in the same day. More time needs to be spent on teaching people how to think for themselves and have their own opinions. By mentoring in this way the mentee will be more capable of explaining their thoughts throughout life.

Create Accountability Between All Parties

Having a mentor can be a huge waste of time if neither party does anything differently based on the discussions that they have. One way to have the relationship be productive is by being accountable to one another.

At the end of each session together set one thing you will each do before the next meeting. In between sessions, ping each other to see how the progress is going on the one task. At the beginning of the next meeting give the other partner a brief explanation of how it went, what went right and what went wrong. By holding each other accountable you will be more likely to finish the task on time and with better results.

Being a mentor to someone so that they can learn from you is an important part of the history of mankind. Without mentors and teachers throughout history, we’d all still be trying to figure out how to make fire. By being a mentor you learn not just about the person you are mentoring, but also about yourself. It is important to not only learn how to mentor, but to continually improve on how good you are at it.

What are some ways that a mentor has changed your life? Have you had mentors that have not helped you at all? Let me know in the comments or via twitter below.