If you are reading this blog, it is possible that mentoring is already your endeavor, or maybe you are considering working as a mentor. In the latter case (but not less important regarding the first one,) it is essential that you know the basis of an appropriate mentoring; what are the guidelines that will help and guide you through the fascinating and sometimes complex world of helping others find ways. So, in this post, you will find four basic principles that you should evaluate and remember during your study, research, and, above all, on the battlefield. I hope that this information is of your total pleasure and usefulness, and, in that case, do not forget to share it with whom you consider that may appreciate it.
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The relationship between a mentor and mentee is, above all, a relationship of trust. Do not think that a title will automatically open the door to someone’s mind and heart. Remember that someone who sits in the mentee chair often feels that someone will tell him what to do with his or her life, and this is something that most people do not enjoy.
No one enjoys feeling like a child again, at least in this sense. So, remember it well: Trust is something you must earn. The key question here is how you break that wall of institutionality between you and the mentee, how you show that you are also a human being who, like him or her, also needs help from time to time. Be casual, joke a little, and establish a bond. That is not less professional at all.
This principle is intrinsically linked to the former one. Remember that the mentee is there because he needs help, not because someone is forcing him or her to do so, and this element is perhaps one of the most valuable factors of mentoring: The will to learn, to be guided. For this reason, you should always ensure that this relationship is voluntary.
Never allow anyone to force your mentee to initiate a mentoring process with you, and, above all, be careful to condition or manipulate the will of your mentee in case he or she decides to end the process. The only link that reinforces the relationship between a mentor and a mentee is the trust and willingness of both.
- The mentee directs each session
Remember it well: Mentoring is not coaching. Unlike the latter, it is the mentee who defines the issues to be addressed in each mentoring session. Although the mentor has a more general perspective of the knowledge the mentee is acquiring, the relationship between the two is not exactly a lecture. The mentee has a need about a specific topic and will approach the mentor to help him/her, above all, to ask the right questions that will help him/her to find satisfactory answers. This is vital: Learn to recognize the differences between mentoring and coaching. Coaching is not a bad thing, of course not. Simply, each process (mentoring and coaching) has different goals, methods, and standards.
Really, there is no need to run in a hurry. Each person assimilates knowledge at a different rate and relates to it in a way that other people may not. So, be patient and take the time to complete each step of the mentoring process. No matter how much you know about a topic, you will realize that being on the side of the mentor will force you to learn much more, and what you already know will become a challenge somewhere along the way. Mentoring is a bilateral relationship in several senses. You, as a mentor, will also be mentee sometimes. So, go slow if necessary.
- It is all about goals and the way to achieve them
Every mentoring relationship is circumscribed around the achievement of objectives for which the relationship is to begin. In this sense, mentor and mentee must define their objectives before starting the whole planning process, and, above all, to make the goals tangible for the subsequent measurement of their accomplishment. It is important to keep in mind that a mentoring process is a learning process, and, therefore, it is useful to differentiate performance goals from learning goals. The latter contribute to the former, even so, in a mentoring process, it is important to work on both axes, since they re-feed each other. Likewise, it is interesting to define and differentiate the target goals from the intermediate objectives that will allow you to divide the mentoring process into small steps.
The more defined the objectives, the measurement process will be simpler, and there will be less ambiguity.
It is very important that you – as a mentor – dialogue with your mentee about these principles before beginning the process. These (and not just these) principles will be the limits that will help you both to know what mentoring is, what it is not, and where you should direct this feedback relationship.