Great managers often don’t make great mentors automatically. Mentoring takes a certain skillset to get the most out of the conversation, in particular active listening. These skills can be an asset in the workplace to get the most out of direct reports. To help your mentors become good at what they do it is important to support them with training.
The word mentor appears for the first time in Greek mythology, in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, took on the guise of an old man called Mentor and advised Telemachus along his journey to find his father, the king, who was fighting in the Trojan War. Mentoring is an age-old concept that exists in different forms in Indigenous communities. Whilst many have attempted to modernise the craft, it still holds a certain important role within the social fabric of all humans no matter what culture or country one stems from.
Despite mentoring’s roots within human relationships in most societies, it can still be a difficult relationship to navigate. Some do it better than others. Professor David Clutterbuck quotes from his research that 1 in 3 mentoring relationships succeed when there is no training – so that’s 2 in 3 that are likely to fail. When you train the mentor the success rate tends to double and when you train the mentee too then success rates soar.
Apart from the skills that mentors learn from training it also helps set up the most basic fundamentals such as how to build rapport and trust, getting housekeeping set up early such as meeting frequency and what mentoring looks like vs coaching.
Any mentor training should cover at the very least:
- What is mentoring and where does it come from
- How to set the relationship up for success from the outset
- Conversational techniques mentors use to help the mentee set goals and plan to achieve them
- Other mentoring skills and tools, such as guiding, challenging, role modelling and summarising
- What mentoring isn’t and how to avoid common mistakes – preferably with some examples so people can see the impact when it’s done poorly
Beyond the basics, you could delve into some more advanced techniques and learnings around powerful questioning, how to effectively support change, building confidence in a mentee, helping with ethical decision making, the list goes on. In certain circumstances it is also important to consider differences between the two individuals in the relationship and preparing them for those differences. Programs for diversity objectives, such as mentoring for women and Indigenous programs, are particularly in need of these preparative measures to be put in place to remove some common pitfalls such as unconscious bias or judgements, stereotyping and handling imposter syndrome in less privileged minority groups.
If you are looking for some training for your mentors then take a look at the Art of Mentoring options here – https://artofmentoring.net/online-training-for-mentors-and-mentees/
In the meantime you are probably looking for some good articles to support your mentors with so below is a quick curation of some of our best blogs to help you.
An important skill for any mentor is to reflect on their own practice. Reflection is important at all moments of the relationship but especially important at the end. Here is a good short article on how to effectively reflect on ones experience as a mentor – https://artofmentoring.net/the-critical-art-of-reflection/
Give a person fish and feed them for a day, teach a person to fish and feed them for a lifetime. This mantra should carry over to a mentor’s goals for their mentoring relationships. The purpose of the mentor is to help their mentee thrive in the circumstances for which they are requesting guidance. Here is some helpful information on how to help a mentee thrive – https://artofmentoring.net/mentors-help-your-mentee-thrive/
Asking the right questions can be hard and asking powerful questions without them feeling mechanical or premeditated is even harder. There are many resources out there that help guide coaches and mentors on how to question effectively so here is a quick resource to get your thoughts moving around 5 different modalities of questioning – https://artofmentoring.net/five-modes-questioning/
Affected by Covid-19? Mentoring across geographies, interstate or internationally? If you answered yes to one of these then chances are that you are running a virtual mentoring relationship. These can be difficult to manage but there’s evidence that shows it has its advantages. Here is an article on how to do virtual mentoring well https://artofmentoring.net/guide-to-virtual-mentoring/
Don’t take trust for granted. Mentors often have a hard time building rapport and trust, especially if this is their first time. Actually, building trust is often counterintuitive for mentors because it requires some less natural skillsets such as listening before providing advice or demonstrating accountability (despite the fact that the mentor is likely volunteering their time). Here is an article on how to build trust – https://artofmentoring.net/mentors-build-trust/