Effective Mentoring Relationships
Many people talk about mentoring, but may not fully understand how to be a really effective mentor. This article will show you how to create effective mentoring relationships.
To ensure that mentoring is effective, the mentor must have a trusting relationship with the mentees. At the same time, mentors must allow mentees to make their own decisions. To be an effective mentor, you will need to know how to behave, as well as how not to behave, in order to achieve trusting and effective mentoring relationships.
Guidelines for Mentors
At the highest level, mentors need to do the following things:
· Build trust
· Ask questions
· Communicate goals and expectations
Learn about your mentees’ likes and dislikes and tell them about yours. Build your credibility by giving examples of your expertise and how it benefited others. Always give your full attention, be open, and be realistic in the goals you set.
It is important to talk about confidentiality, its boundaries, and when it might be broken in a mentoring relationship. Establish clear guidelines and the consequences of breaking those guidelines for both you and the mentees.
Building rapport can also help build trust. Common interests can be a good place to start. Try to see the challenges your mentees face from their points of view, respect their skills, and acknowledge their past successes. The better your rapport, the sooner you’ll start trusting each other.
Trust develops over time, but sharing personal information can accelerate its development. Try sharing some of your fears or barriers concerning your goals.
Encourage your mentees to be more self-aware by questioning them about their past experiences. A mentor can sometimes be more effective by encouraging mentees to answer their own questions, than by simply providing answers. Open-ended questions will help clarify expectations and help you learn about each other.
You can also ask probing questions to find specific information about your mentees’ backgrounds and professional goals. This helps you learn about their strengths and weaknesses, learning styles, and past successes. You can use probing questions to establish how your mentees react to change, challenges, and opportunities.
Communicating goals and expectations
It is important that you and your mentees agree upon goals and expectations, and agree that these are realistic. Encourage a dialogue to be certain this is so.
Problems in the Mentoring Relationship
In some cases, mentors and mentees fail to establish a strong relationship. If this problem occurs within an established mentoring program, you need to inform the program coordinators about the problem and let them decide the best course of action. However, if you are not part of a mentoring program, you will need to solve the problem yourselves. Before deciding whether the mentoring relationship should continue, you should take the following three steps:
- Determine the nature of the problem
- Establish whether you can solve the problem
- Decide whether to find another mentor
Determining the nature of the problem
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is causing the relationship to suffer?
- Why is this a problem?
- Is this a common problem for you?
Write out your answers and then formulate a statement that summarises the problem, being as specific as possible. Then, ask your mentor for his opinion about the problem. The more openly you talk about the problem, the more likely it is to be resolved. Keep in mind that sometimes a problem might arise due to personality differences, miscommunication, lack of communication, or lack of rapport between the mentor and the mentee.
Can you solve the problem?
After identifying the nature of the problem, determine whether you could solve it. Generally, solving a problem depends on its complexity and whether it is based on uncontrollable variables, such as conflicts of personality, or on controllable variables, such as lack of expertise in a specific area.
Should you find a new mentor?
Finally, you should decide whether you need to find a new mentor. If you can’t resolve the problem or feel uncomfortable about the relationship, look for or request another mentor. It is important to bring closure to the relationship. Ideally, the mentor should agree that it is beneficial to end the existing relationship and that there are no hard feelings about doing so. If the problem can be solved, but its resolution creates tension between the mentor and the mentee, it is best to look for another mentor.
If you decide to find another mentor, it is important that you communicate the news to your mentor respectfully. Be honest and explain your reasons in a sensitive manner. Thank your mentor for his time and acknowledge anything positive that has come out of the relationship.