Key elements of mentoring

I have witnessed far too many leaders who say they mentor but do not invest time and energy. There are some key elements of mentoring which are vital for success, but you also need to invest the time and energy in it, or it is simply not effective.

Sometimes mentoring is seen as the “soft stuff”, the “fluffy bits” and not critical. I beg to disagree.  If you do not mentor, then you will not light the fires in the people you are meant to be leading, and both mentor and mentoree will be the lesser for it.

Oprah Winfrey said it brilliantly: “ A mentor is someone who allows you to see the light inside yourself”

You will not develop anyone by managing them. Yes, managing them will get things done. But mentoring your people will lift performance to a different level.

Mentoring will facilitate the kindling of that flame that drives us to excel beyond expectation. If you achieve that with your people – you are a leader, my friend!

So, what are the 6 key elements of mentoring?

1. Take your own advice

Very simply – you must have a mentor! If you are engaging with someone as a mentor, but don’t have one yourself, then what does that say? A mentor does not have to be an aged sage, bent over with experience and knowledge! The experience and knowledge are great to have, but your mentor can be a member of your peer group who will listen objectively.

2. Clarity regarding the purpose

Be really clear why you are mentoring and what you hope to achieve, and what the person you are monitoring will get from the experience. Mentoring is about facilitating change and growth, and there will always be opportunities for future growth. But don’t have unfocused discussions – be clear and precise.

3. Listen to what is being said

I referred to this earlier. This is not an exercise in demonstrating how much you know and how wise you are. You must listen really carefully – to what is being said and what is not being said. Ask continuously for clarification about the points being made. Draw everything out – not just the first things that are uttered. Listen to the tone and the inflexion, and watch the body language.

4.  Do it on a regular basis

Sounds obvious, but these discussions are frequently the ones that get dumped when the pressure on time arises. Ad hoc sessions will only come across as being contrived and “we should have a chat” type of approach. You have to demonstrate that you really care – and is committed to regular mentoring sessions demonstrates that commitment.

5.  Give of yourself

Give your time, give your counsel, give of your emotions and be involved in the process. The more you give of yourself, the bigger the impact. Remember what Maya Angelou, the civil rights leader, said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel” Mentoring gives you the opportunity to set the seeds for growth in others – and they will never forget you for it.

6.  Be a role model

You cannot be a mentor and then disregard your own advice. You must walk the talk in every way which is a big ask, but comes with being a mentor! Albert Schweitzer, the Nobel Prize winner, said: “Example is not the main thing when influencing others, it is the only thing” This is a challenge for us all, but real mentors do live up to it.

Truthfully, I believe that mentoring is one of the most fulfilling roles you can play, and done properly, is also one of the most rewarding. Winston Churchill said it brilliantly: “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”

Please share your experiences of mentoring and the challenges you encountered.

This post was updated on October 2019

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