Mentor For Success

Previously, we explored the importance of having a mentor and here, we dive into the other side of the equation: the benefits of becoming a mentor and what makes mentoring work.

By definition, a mentor is a catalyst for growth. Some of the most successful mentors of all time posses these characteristics: perspective, clarity, supportiveness, confidence-building, patience, involvement, respect, openness.

Sometimes known to lose his patience, Yoda is able to drive young Luke to the edge and infuse him with confidence to make the final leap – masterfully transferring ownership of the newly-acquired skills to his disciple. A good mentor is not someone who’s perfect but someone who knows the perfect tool for the task at hand.

Often times the answer is in the question, grasshopper. Let’s take a look at the types of questions that elicit growth:

  1. High gain questions encourage elaboration, demonstrate that you’re focused on the mentee’s needs, and involve the mentee in the development of the solutions. Examples: “Tell me more about this..” “What led you to that conclusion?” “How do you feel about that?”
  2. Investigative questions check for more information. “How long have you worked on this?” “Who else is involved?” “Where do you think the project went off track?”
  3. Discovery questions dig deeper and identify existing needs, problems, pain points, goals, etc. “What have you learned from this experience?” “How will you be measuring success?” “What are your alternatives?”
  4. Empowering questions is where the magic of transferring ownership of the new skills to the mentee happens. “What is your first step?” “What resources do you have, what do you need?” “What do you have to do to make this happen?”

A successful mentoring program has two crucial elements:

  1. Clearly outlined goals or outcomes.
  2. Methodology (theory of change) of planning, participation, and evaluation.

The first is self-explanatory but the key is to get agreement with the mentee ahead of time, which will allow for accountability to take place. The methodology simply refers to the process via which the results will be obtained and how the outcome will be measured. This is all about having a system – how do you get from A to Z.

One of the biggest things I stress at the beginning of every mentoring relationship is the importance of complete confidentiality – I want to establish from the get-go that this is a place where the mentee’s feelings, thoughts, and doubts are all welcome and to assure them that it will not get back to their boss. The assurance of confidentiality goes a long way in creating not only trust but also the fertile ground for breaking through barriers.

Mentoring can be very rewarding and some of the benefits include increasing your credibility and improving your positioning in your industry; enhancing your communication, leadership, and coaching skills; widening and improving the quality of your network; developing and retaining talent within your organization; and not in the last place – building your legacy.

Thank you! Questions, comments, suggestions – I welcome it all.

Lina serves as a mentor to athletes from the United States Olympic Committee’s Athlete Career and Education program.

Please visit: Connect on twitter: @LinaTaylorInt 

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