Essential Tips for Being a Great Mentor

I’m sure that at some point in your life, an acquaintance has reached out to you for advice on a given topic: work, relationships, family, finances, etc. It is a really fulfilling feeling to know someone is coming to you for said advice, because it means that they trust you and your opinion. If you are repeatedly approached about similar topics from the same people (or person), you might even have the honor of being positioned in their eyes as a type of “mentor.”

Mentor…mentor…this is a really powerful title!

Do you think of yourself as a mentor to others? Do you want to be? Being a mentor really only has positive side effects, as long as you have the right approach. For example, be sure you’re not just giving advice or guidance on the fly – put some thought, effort, and time into it. After all, you don’t want to be the person giving bad advice that leads your mentees in the wrong direction! Similarly, do as you say – you can’t be viewed as a positive role model and mentor if you don’t follow your own advice or if you contradict yourself too often.

Here a few tips to becoming a positive, reputable mentor. Follow these, and your future mentees might even start to form a waiting line for your time!

Have a vision for your mentoring.
As Steve Jobs put his, “I want to make a dent in the universe.” What is your vision when it comes to mentoring others?

Make a commitment to time and energy.
Mentoring does not function as a microwave; instead, it should operate like an oven.

Embrace your path to success, failures and all.
You must encourage mentees to have a “healthy conscience” – mess up, learn from it, and move forward.

“Clean your cup.”
As a mentor, make a conscious effort to continually examine yourself, clean up your own attitude, etc. Be vulnerable. Be willing to work on yourself. If you start to sink, your mentee will too.

Be able to turn life lessons into principles.
We can always, always, always, learn from life’s ups and downs.

Have great listening skills.
You can’t accurately provide feedback or guidance if you don’t actively listen to your mentees’ needs.

Learn to ask good questions to get your mentees thinking.
From open-ended questions to encourage your mentee to truly evaluate their professional path to direct questions that will provide you with the best insight possible to form your plan for mentorship, good questions will make all the difference when it comes to your mentorship. The following questions will help your mentee to think more strategically:
• Why do you think it is like that?
• Where do you want to go from here?
• Where do you want to be in a year?
• What would you like to be different about this situation?
• What’s going on right now?

Know when to respond and when to let mentees figure it out for themselves.
From time to time, your responses may not do as much good as allowing your mentee to face the problem head on.

Limit your own narrative.
It is great to tell your story, but only to the point that it might be helpful. For example, “Here are lessons that I have learned…” Again, be vulnerable and don’t be afraid to reveal your own flaws. Nobody can easily relate to Superman or Superwoman – we all struggle, and we prefer to seek advice from those who have been there, done that.

Help your mentee to set SMART goals.
These goals are meant to be easily visualized and reachable, without overwhelming your mentee. Smart goals are:
• Specific
• Measurable
• Attainable
• Realistic
• Timely

Provide a good mixture of constructive feedback and praise. Both are necessary to keep your mentee moving forward. Remember, growth happens when things are hard.

When necessary, provide homework and hold the mentee accountable to the homework. Teaching your mentee is the first step, but making sure they embrace your lessons and retain them is a vital second step. Remember, if we do not put into practice something we’ve learned within 10 days, it is less likely to become part of who we are.

Finally, have an inherent desire to want to help, want what’s best for your mentees, and want to be the best mentor you can possibly be. You might even learn a thing or two yourself while teaching your mentee all about life!

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Lisa Nichols

Lisa Nichols is the CEO and co-founder of Technology Partners, a Women-Business Enterprise, and heads up the business side of the company. Lisa is committed to the success of the community and was featured in Forbes’ “Most Powerful Women” issue in 2014 for Missouri, and 2014, for Texas.