Like any relationship, mentorship takes involvement from both parties. A few weeks ago, I wrote on ways mentees can take their mentoring relationships to the next level. It would be foolish of me not then not to address the mentor side of the equation to complement my other post.
I’d like to state before we dive in that while I’ve been blessed to be the student of several mentors I’ve not served in a long term mentoring relationship as a mentor.
That’s not to say I haven’t offered on the spot mentorship, advice, or coaching to fraternity members, co-workers, friends, relatives, etc. I just wish to frame for you the lenses I see through.
As a mentee I desire for my mentor to always have this question at the center of their heart in the relationship. What does my mentee need right now in order to grow into a better person?
What Can I or Am I Willing to Offer as a Mentor?
For some this may be a one-time coffee meeting, in which a mentee wishes to learn about the mentor’s career. For others that may be looking to change lifelong destructive habits it could take many years of weekly meetings and frequent phone calls.
What can you commit to? It is absolutely okay to say not now or no. It may hurt and feel like your rejecting an aspiring mentee, but it leaves the door open for a better relationship in the future.
My business mentor, who helped navigate college, interviews, internships, and finding my first job followed this model perfectly. One of my professors invited him to class to talk about his career in general management. Towards the end he offered to sit down with any of us one-on-one about any career or life questions.
I should also note, don’t ever offer a meeting unless you truly want to do it. Inevitably, someone, like me in this case, may take you up on the offer. We had a great hour-long discussion and I wanted to meet more. He was up front about his personal and professional demands, which was reassuring that I wasn’t intruding on his time.
Bottom-line: Know what you can realistically offer in time as a mentor.
Recommendation: Ask yourself if someone came to me seeking career guidance, parenting help, spiritual direction, etc. could I offer enough support for them to grow.
Delivering the Message as a Mentor
Many times a mentor will get to offer encouragement and praise for the growth of their mentee. At these times its really easy to offer feedback and help the mentee leverage this growth even more. Whether it be a parent, teacher, minister, etc. we’ve all seen the smile in a mentor’s face when the student or mentee gets things right.
Yet at times a mentor has to deliver fraternal correction and depending on the context of the situation this can be a taxing situation for both mentor and mentee.
As a mentor in my fraternity I had to deliver both of these messages to members I was guiding.
Many times a new member would get half-way through his first semester in the fraternity and his motivation would start to wain as school, life, and fraternity pressures reached the highpoint of the term.
The goal of the conversation would simply be to get them back on track and how could I help them. My mentor did the same thing for me when I was new.
I had used this common method to build a foundation upon which we could build a renewed drive in seeing the students’ first semester through. This approach worked really well for some members and we were able to build a plan to get the member back on track.
For others this approach bombed and the conversation set us back further than were we started. With hindsight I can see how some of them may have received this approach as condescending or arrogant.
Thinking back on the same talk I had with my mentor I realize some similar thoughts lurked in the back of my mind. As a mentor I should have taken more time to learn exactly how this new member best received difficult messages.
Bottom Line: Always be asking, “How will my mentee best receive the full context from whatever message I want to convey?”
Recommendation: The best way to know what and how to deliver a message is simply getting to know your mentee. Take the time to get to know their personality, communication style, and story. Having an understanding of basic emotional intelligence principles also helps. To learn more check out my post on emotional intelligence or simply Google it to learn more.
I want to conclude this second part by thanking the mentors in my life. Many of them even encouraged me to write for the Borough and for those of them reading this I thank God for having you a part of my life.
To anybody that is in a position to be a mentor, I encourage you to seize the opportunity. I can guarantee that at times it will be frustrating, but I promise you that no matter the end result it will be rewarding.