What it means to be a mentor
Winston Churchill once said: “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Having a mentor can really change a person’s career. It’s about listening, offering insight and generally helping to steer the mentee in the right direction.
As a mentor, you will play a key role in helping others to achieve their potential by:
- Acting as a sounding board for new ideas
- Listening and discussing personal issues that may be having a dramatic effect on your mentee’s professional life.
- Encouraging them to think bigger by challenging them to consider new opportunities
- Helping them to pick themselves up in difficult circumstances.
- Asking probing and stimulating questions
- Sharing knowledge and expertise
Guiding learning and career development
As a mentor, you don’t tell mentees what to do; you guide them through options and ways to approach a problem or challenge, based on real-life situations from your career. This experience can include things that worked for you and things that didn’t, both provide valuable insight for mentees. Being a mentor means you can explore different scenarios with the mentee, widening their perspective and encouraging them to look at aspects they may otherwise not have considered, helping them to choose the most appropriate course of action for them.
Whilst making final decisions is down to the mentee, there may be times that as a mentor, you may disagree with the decision they are leaning towards. In this case, it is useful to be able to provide guidance that the mentee may otherwise not consider when making their final decisions.
Modern-day mentors could learn much from the advice of the 17th-century philosopher Blaise Pascal, who set out the most effective way to get someone to change their mind. Put simply; he came to the conclusion that to tell someone they are wrong; first, tell them they are right. He referred to this approach as “correcting with advantage”.
In this approach, the mentor takes note of what angle the mentee views the matter from and acknowledges that from that particular perspective what they are saying is correct. This helps to get the mentee onside and gives them an incentive to co-operate in the exchange that will follow. The mentor can then alert the mentee to a different angle, an angle where perhaps what that mentee is saying doesn’t necessarily hold true. Taking this approach means the mentee is satisfied that they are not wrong, just that they failed to see all sides. Pascal believed that people are generally better persuaded by reasons that they think they have discovered themselves.
And that is what mentoring is all about; it is a journey of self-discovery – not just for the mentee but often for the mentor too.
Why not start your journey of self-discovery by registering as a mentor on our mentoring program, which will support you with lots of help and guidance.