Being a Mentor
How to Be Miserable
Think only about yourself.
Talk only about yourself.
Use “I” as often as possible.
Mirror yourself continually
in the opinion of others.
Listen greedily to what people say about you.
Expect to be appreciated.
Be jealous and envious.
Be sensitive to slights.
Never forgive a criticism.
Trust nobody but yourself.
Insist on consideration and respect.
with your own views on everything.
Sulk if people aren’t grateful
to you for favors shown them.
Never forget a service you have rendered.
Shirk your duties if you can.
Do as little as possible for others.
—Author and Source—Unknown—
Being A Mentor
(Just to get this out of the way … if you think in order to be a mentor, it requires a degree; think again. All you will need to demonstrate is a good standard knowledge of general education, particularly in English and Math. A postgraduate degree is not necessary for entry, but some learning mentors have professional qualifications.)
The untitled piece you have just read is only a portion of a human being’s persona, but this is also a large chunk of a person’s life who feels either despondent, angry, or lost in life. Being a mentor, can very well help a person to get back on track with a new outlook and a positive side of life, with that “feel much better” attitude.
Mentoring is a relationship over a prolonged period of time between two or more people where the mentor provides constant as needed support, guidance, and concrete help to the mentorees as they confront obstacles encountered in their life.
Mentoring helps fill the gap of adult relationships which is absent in the lives of many people. It can express to them toward new information—and this may help them make better decisions about their own current or future life.
Mentoring is about believing in the unlimited potential of each and every person served. It maintains high expectations for those mentorees while allowing them to reach those expectations in their own time frame.
Mentoring is about time and patience.
Mentoring is intentional. The mentoring relationship benefits from structure, specific purpose, goals, meeting times, materials and dates. It is also goal-focused. The mentoring relationship is entered into for a reason that can be measure between both sides.
Mentoring is a method, a way of relating to someone to pass on life skills, resources, and experiences. It’s resource-based. Mentors pass on wisdom, experiences and patterns, habits of obedience, principles and prepared materials to the mentoree.
Mentoring is growth-centered. It’s not just friendships; it’s for transformation and development toward fullness of one’s potential.
Mentoring is a nurturing relationship. Nurture can be defined as promoting the development of others by providing support, nourishment, encouragement, etc., during their stages of growth. More than anything else, mentoring is nurturing others by pouring oneself into them in a caring and affirming way; selflessly giving of themselves for the benefit of another.
Mentoring starts with someone in need who meets with someone with more experience who can contribute to that need. As a result, a relationship is formed; the more experienced person shares what they have learned from their experience and a transfer begins to take place, and with good fortune, a positive change manifests.
So Who and What is this Mentor?
A mentor is a caring guide, a trusted advisor, a partner on one’s often slippery journey through a portion of his/her life.
A mentor is one who can serve as a mirror for the mentoree—showing them both who they are and who they can become. This mirror can help mentorees see themselves from a positive and empathetic perspective, allowing the mentoree to see their own strengths and future possibilities.
A mentor is one who can help mentorees feel comfortable in their own skin and appreciate their gifts while at the same time exposing him/her to new opportunities and outlets for thought.
A mentor is ultimately one who can establish a strong connection with their mentoree and can, in turn, use that connection as a catalyst for positive change and growth.
How to be an Effective Mentor
An effective mentor must be committed and committed to the process, and consider and see the mentoree as a person, not a project or a duty.
There will be ups and downs through the period of time with a mentoree, but the big picture of the development of the mentoree’s life must be kept in perspective.
A mentor must be committed to a purpose. Sometimes we see the purpose, but they won’t. We must be committed to the “finished product” of the mentoree.
Attributes of a Mentor
Respect a mentoree’s time as much as his own. Give encouragement. Tell a mentoree what specifically will be given. Direct mentorees to resources they made need.
Allow ample enough freedom for the mentoree to emerge as a leader, even if it is to the point of standing on his/her own shoulders.
Offer up suggestions and be emotionally sensitive to positive criticism. Also, resolve conflict in caring ways, rarely avoiding it, and never make unrealistic promises, and be willing to share with a mentoree their own missteps and failures.
There are a vast number of Reach Programs in the country, mainly centering on wellness care for both children and older adults (seniors).
Here for mentoring, this is also a R.E.A.C.H. program.
“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him and let him know that you trust him.” – Booker T. Washington
“The aim of education is the knowledge not of the fact, but of values” – Dean William R. Inga
“Leadership is action, not position.” – Donald H. McGannon
“It’s the unhappiest people, who most fear change.” – Mignon McLaughlin
Humility allows us to be in a relationship with other people, grounded in the spirit of vulnerability and ease, rather than from the controlling position of self-importance – Micah 6:8
Reach for your dreams and keep the dream alive.
Reach for a better life.
Reach beyond your circumstances; expand your limitations.
Reach into the unknown and take that leap of faith.
There will be more to come on the scope of mentoring, foundations of mentoring relationships and types of relationships. Communication skills and communication roadblocks.
Leadership attributes, how to build and rebuild one’s character, exploring diversity, diagnosing the needs of a mentoree and much more.
Next Up: Defining what Mentoring isn’t, that dreaded “F” word, and The Four Agreements, written by Don Miguel Ruiz.
Defining What Mentoring Isn’t
There are a lot odd preconceived ideas about what mentoring is. The following explains what mentoring isn’t.
1) Mentoring isn’t merely friendships. Friends do contribute to personal growth but often in a passive and less intensive ways than intentional mentoring relationships. Whereas friendships can always be a by-product of mentoring, it isn’t the primary goal.
2) Mentoring isn’t therapy. Counselors can certainly help people through growing pains in a very focused relationship, but the skills and certification often required make the relationship strictly professional.
3) Mentoring isn’t about re-parenting. Without question, the parental relationship is the most impacting growth relationship that anyone can experience and may include mentoring characteristics. However, the learning that occurs through a parental relationship may not be as intentional, or as limited, as a structured, task/skill learning experience like mentoring.
4) Mentoring isn’t modeling. A person you have never met or only seen from a distance can be a model, but it doesn’t fulfill the one-on-one developmental nature of mentoring. Biblical characters, historical figures, and modern leaders can be great models to learn from and emulate, but they are more than likely, not mentors.
5) A mentor is not all-knowing. No one but the mentoree knows what it is like to wake up every day in their situation or handle the realities of their daily life. A mentor who comes in with an “I know best” agenda, runs the risk of losing the trust of his mentoree or offers up ineffective advice.
6) A mentor is not a tutor. It’s tempting for mentors who see their mentorees failing, to want to turn themselves into super tutors. A mentor can be there to offer resources and provide help, but, if and only if—and when, the mentor wants it.
7) A mentor isn’t a provider. This is worth repeating since that scenario is so easy to present itself in a mentoring relationship, in any challenging environment. As a mentor you have an important role in a mentoree’s life—but it isn’t as a source of financial support. This is a value which needs to be addressed before things begin. By freeing the relationship from monetary dependency, it allows it to grow without any undue pressure or expectation. If asked, you can find other resources for support, or even serve as advocates, but taking on a role of direct financial support will jeopardize the relationship.
8) A mentor isn’t a savior. It is much more important to focus on the relationship than on goals and salvation, enrichment, or betterment. Goals come only after relationship—and you never know exactly what those goals could/would be. For a mentoree, a positive relationship may be the inspiration to go after a vocational training program or a productive career-minded goal. For another, it just might be in giving him/her the comfort in knowing that there has been one source of support in his/her life; just that feeling alone can have powerful impacts.
A mentor is a caring guide, a wise advisor, a partner on the journey with the mentoree.
A mentor can serves as a mirror for the mentorees. You can show mentorees who they are—and all they can become.
A mentor is one who can help the mentoree feel comfortable in their own skin and appreciate their gifts while at the same time, exposing them to new opportunities and ways of thinking.
What makes a mentor “a mentor”, is not that they are perfect or always know exactly what to say, but that they are able to form a strong connection with their mentoree. This connection can serve as a catalyst for positive change and growth.
The “F” Word
Here it is, the dreaded F word, but we aren’t talking the four letter one we’ve heard countless times throughout our lives. In this case, it’s about a seven-letter word, and every bit as lethal when misused. Failure.
One person once said, “All my life, people have said I’d never amount to much.” Too often what we feel we amount to is no more than the sum total of other people’s opinions of us.
The dictionary defines failure as: a state of inability to perform a normal function adequately, and also—a lack of success.
I like that last one because at the least unexpected moment, the hammer could drop, and everything a person has worked hard for could be gone—in a single heartbeat. Family, home, social status, money—gone. And we hear the echo of the man saying, “All my life, people have said I’d never amount to much.” People will be convinced that person was a failure. And deep within themselves, they will feel the same way.
The reality though, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of us. It only matters what we think of ourselves. You may have failed many times, although you may not remember; it’s part of growing and learning. You fell down the first time you tried to walk. You almost drowned the first time you tried swimming. Did you hit the ball the first time you swung a bat? Heavy hitters, the ones who hit the most home runs, also strike out a lot. Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs.
Failure is no more than a state of mind, a perception, an attitude, a learning experience, a bump in the road of life. Some of the4 biggest names in business failed.
Ray Kroc failed in real estate before creating MacDonald’s.
Henry Ford’s first two car businesses failed.
Ako Morita and Masura Ibuka (two people you probably never heard of before), invented an automatic cooker that ended up burning rice; everyone called them failures. Later, they built a tape-recorder for Japanese schools that laid the foundation for a company you have heard off: SONY.
It’s been the same throughout history.
Socrates was called “An immoral corruptor of youth”.
Beethoven’s music teacher called him hopeless as a composer.
Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was too stupid to learn anything.
Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four years old and he couldn’t read until he was seven. His teachers said he was mentally slow.
One of the greatest football coaches and motivators of all time was referred to by a sports authority, “He possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation.” The coach: Vince Lombardi (For those who don't know, The Lombardi Trophy is given to the football team who wins the Super Bowl each year and he also coached the Green Bay Packers to the first two Super Bowls in which they won).
Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of ideas and went bankrupt several times before Disneyland was built.
Oprah Winfrey was fired from a TV station contending she would never make it as a reporter.
The Original Colonel Sanders spent years traveling across the country to find someone interested in his fried chicken recipe.
Abraham Lincoln failed at just about everything he attempted, but he never gave up, never gave in.
Even former prison inmates such as Merle Haggard, Steve Earle and Johnny Cash, all served time for drugs or robbery. Hip-Hop artists and rappers, they all went on to becoming music icons.
A good case in point is the actor Danny Trejo. He left behind a history of gangbanging, drugs and heavy violence, and practically his entire body is covered over with scars and tattoo’s, and, if you ran into him in a dark alley, it would be like stepping into a nightmare. Today, Trejo’s name is practically a household word, and for years has been a sought-after character actor in Hollywood. (As of late, he has done several commercials for Sling TV.)
But even if you don’t aspire to be famous, what if you just want to be the best father? Best mother? Best husband or wife? Or the best son or daughter? Best friend? That to me is far better than being famous. But it will take persistence with the mental attitude of never giving up, never giving in.
Consider this: There is no such thing as failure, only results!
Failure is just a means of describing a situation we did not want … so, redirect the efforts. Being a mentor and being a mentoree is a step in the right direction.
Bill Marriott of the Marriott stated, “Failure? I never encountered it. All I ever met were temporary setbacks.”
Oh, and the guy who made the statement, “All my life people said I’d never amount to much?” This man was once homeless, living out of his car, and often tempted to steal something to eat. As of June 2018, Forbes Magazine lists this man’s net worth at just over $600 million dollars. His name: Tyler Perry.
The Four Agreements
Be Impeccable in Your Word
Speak only with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can transform your life.
Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to being sick. Under any circumstances, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret — Don Miguel Ruiz
Miguel Ángel Ruiz Macías, better known by his pseudonym as Don Miguel Ruiz, is a Mexican author of Toltec spiritualist and neo-shamanistic texts. His work is best-received among members of the New Thought movement that focuses on ancient teachings as a means to achieve spiritual enlightenment. He is currently 66 and now resides in Nevada.
Four Friends: A Story
There is perhaps no greater issue of diversity that that which is intrinsic in every mentoring relationship—that of age and experience. Forming relationships with mentoree’s on an intimate, daily level involves constant interaction of worlds which can collide, overlap, intersect, or intertwine. In mentoring, we are often called on to deal with all these issues within an individual friendship. Mentors will likely be challenged with issues of diversity which you probably did not imagine when you first signed up for this daunting task. It is best to be as prepared as possible for the culture shock which you will encounter as well as to serve as constant sources of guidance and support throughout the process.
What Constitutes Diversity
Diversity within mentoring can be defined as any significant, personal or cultural difference which has the potential of affecting the development of the mentoring relationship. It is important to realize that diversity is broader than simply ethnic or religious distinction. Instead, there are many elements and components of diversity. These include:
Country of origin
Level of education
Color of skin
Level of acculturation (cultural and psychological changes)
Why Is Diversity Training Relevant
Diversity training is not only relevant because we live in such a diverse community; it is relevant because it can affect every aspect of a mentoring relationship, from before it begins to how it progresses and develops. Issues of diversity deal with fundamental issues of human understanding and interaction. When we meet someone new, it is a natural part of our process of learning and understanding and to immediately inquire: where the person is from, where they live, do they have family and so forth. These questions occur naturally and immediately, whether or not we acknowledge them.
There is a natural need to understand the world, our community and each other by organizing information into categories that make sense. The danger is that we can categorize based on our own limited experiences and understanding of the world. This can lead to erroneous conclusions which can negatively impact the mentoring relationship.
The goals of including diversity in your mentoring training should be to prevent diversity from becoming an obstacle to relationship development. It should alert mentors to hear their own values as well as bias, introduce you to area of possible conflict and provide you tools to address the issue. Moreover, it should introduce you to communication skills which can help develop your relationship in spite of and perhaps because of differences.
Therefore, the goal on diversity should be:
Help you become aware of the importance of diversity as an issue in mentoring.
Help you assess and be aware of your own culture, who you are, and what you bring to the relationship.
Help debunk any assumptions about those you will be serving by developing a through understanding of the mentoree with whom you may be working with.
Help you develop a strategy of communication that will allow you to bridge the gap on diversity gaps and turn the issues into opportunities for growth instead of barriers to relations.
The single most important aspect of promoting understanding across differences is understanding oneself—one’s own values, beliefs, perspectives, choices and early messages about people who are different. Often, we unconsciously judge others according to our internal assessments of what we did or would do in a similar circumstance. We extrapolate how we would feel and what our priorities and values would be. When we become conscious of how our own experiences inform our judgements, we can critically test our assumptions about others.
Honoring the Mentoree’s Right to Self-Determination
Self-determination is the right that every human should have to make decisions for themselves. This concept can become tricky and confusing when mentorees are already having decisions made for them and without their consent (parent to child, employer to employee, a judge handing down a decision), is an issue many people are all to familiar with. It makes things difficult for them to believe they cannot be believed they can be trusted to make decisions, or even have a right to make a decision, and this comes about as they aren’t offered the opportunity to exercise those decisions. Herein the challenge of a mentor, in part, is to help a mentoree develop these skills to learn to make their own responsible choices.
Below are a few tips for promoting and respecting a mentoree’s right to self-determination. The idea is to process whim him/her, so they understand what the implications might be of any particular course of action, and to help them discover what is important.
This is vital as it communicates respect and trust; it’s especially important to the mentoree’s development where it builds healthy decision-making skills. These concerns should and need to take precedence over a focus of changing behavior or influencing the mentoree’s course of action.
Focus on the feelings and needs rather than jumping to problem-solving.
When an issue has been talked about, ask, “What do you think you would like to do about this situation,” and “How would you like for me to help?”
If you aren’t comfortable with what he/she wants to do, ask yourself why, before you decide whether to say so.
If what he/she wants to do isn’t possible, explain gently and with sensitivity.
Ask what alternative solutions would make him/her comfortable.
Encourage and promote critical thinking through questions and reflections.
Use the words: “I don’t know, what do you think?”
Once you have successfully addressed the mentoree’s feelings and processed with the mentoree in a way that honors his/her need for self-determination, you can assist the mentoree in locating resources and other options. It’s important at this stage that you be prepared to assist, but that you may be needed when appropriate if and when other issues may come to the forefront.
Volumes have been written on character, and the need for it in any successful person’s life. But is it possible to build character? As part of preparation for mentoring service, it is incumbent upon us to consider the question.
We don’t have to look far to see what a man must do to develop bulging biceps and perfect pectorals. Ask any weightlifter and they will tell you it requires a disciplined workout schedule and the right kind of diet.
Strength of character doesn’t come automatically either. It’s developed over time as a person exercises wisdom in staying on the right pathway and maintains their moral compass of direction.
In the Bible, the apostle Paul uses an analogy of athletics when he wrote: “Everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things … therefore, I run not with uncertainty. Thus I fight not as one who beats the air, but I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others. I myself should become disqualified.” I Corinthians 9:25-7. Accordingly, as mentors, we can guide and teach what we know, and guide by our own moral compass.
The question might be asked, what exactly is strength of character? To some extent it can be equated with spiritual maturity. It is that, and much more. First, we need to define character. D. L. Moody maintained, “Character is what you are in the dark.” Character is what you are really like, not the coverup that you allow others to see. Character is what guides your actions and speech. Character is your unique identity, the sun total of your individual characteristics, the qualities that a potential mentoree will either be drawn to or, stay away from.
Character can be good or bad. Strength of character refers to good character, a person who stands for what is right, who has backbone to express and live out his/her convictions. And these same qualities are part of what is expected in an effective mentor.
Additionally, strength of character reflects a consistent, proper self-image, and a life that expresses the qualities that we would hope to see in someone else who could be mentoring you. Much of what produces strong character includes self-confidence, consistency, training, the right priorities, and following the right example.
We should determine if these disciplines are being applied in our daily lives by taking Personal Inventories. It needs to be noted that these character traits have less to do with intellectual ability and formal education but has more to do with one’s own moral code. These are qualities we should all be working to improve upon regardless of our culture, backgrounds, or religious training.
Here are several character traits to consider:
Temperate. To remain stable, with clear thinking, with a balanced life.
Sober-minded. Being sensible in action and exhibiting sound judgement.
Of Good Behavior. Be respectable and honorable in all actions.
Gentle. To be gracious, kind, forbearing and considerate.
Hospitable. Help those in need, friendly. It also means (Greek term), “Loving strangers.”
Lastly: Ask yourself this question … What are you doing to develop strength of character in all aspects of your life?
Now, as promised, a story called: Four Friends. As to who originally wrote this, I haven’t been able to find out, as there are several variations on this theme.
Once upon a time there was a girl who had four friends.
She loved the fourth friend the most and adorned him with rich robes and treated him to the finest of delicacies. She gave him nothing but the best.
She also loved the third friend very much and was always showing him off to neighboring kingdoms. However, she feared that one day he would leave her for another.
She also loved her second friend. He was her confidant and was always kind, considerate and patient with her. Whenever this girl faced a problem, she could confide in him, and he would help her get through the difficult times.
The girl's first friend was a very loyal partner and had made great contributions in maintaining her wealth and kingdom. However, she did not love the first friend, although he loved her deeply, she hardly took notice of him!
One day, the girl fell ill, and she knew her time was short. She thought of her luxurious life and wondered, 'I now have four friends with me, but when I die, will I be alone.'
Thus, she asked the fourth friend, 'I loved you the most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?
'No way!', replied the fourth friend, and he walked away without another word.
His answer cut like a sharp knife right into her heart.
The sad girl then asked the third friend, 'I loved you all my life. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?'
'No!', replied the third friend. 'Life is too good! When you die, I'm going to marry someone else!' Her heart sank and turned cold.
She then asked the second friend, 'I have always turned to you for help and you've always been there for me. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?'
'I'm sorry, I can't help you out this time!', replied the second friend. 'At the very most, I can only walk with you to your grave.'
His answer struck her like a bolt of lightning, and the girl was devastated.
Then a voice called out: 'I'll go with you. I'll follow you no matter where you go.'
The girl looked up, and there was her first friend. He was very skinny as he suffered from malnutrition and neglect.
Greatly grieved, the girl said, 'I should have taken much better care of you when I had the chance!'
In truth, you have four friends in your lives:
Your fourth friend is your body. No matter how much time and effort you lavish in making it look good, it will leave you when you die.
Your third friend is your possessions, status and wealth. When you die, it will all go to others.
Your second friend is your family and friends. No matter how much they have been there for you, the furthest they can stay by you is up to the grave.
And your first friend is your spirit. Often neglected in pursuit of wealth, power and pleasures of the world.
However, your spirit is the only thing that will follow you wherever you go. Cultivate, strengthen and cherish it now, for it is the only part of you that will follow you throughout eternity.
Thought for the Day: Remember, when the world pushes you to your knees, you're in the perfect position to pray.
The Scope of Mentoring
Foundation of Mentoring: Relationships
The Scope of Mentoring
Mentoring is the intentional and goal-focused method of sharing life resources to help others grow in their God-given potential.
Intentional: The mentoring relationship benefits from structure, specific purpose, goals, meeting times, materials (as needed), and when appropriate, closure periods.
Goal-Focused: The mentoring relationship is entered into for a reason that can be measured between the participants.
Method: Mentoring is a way of relating to someone to pass on life skills, resources, and experiences.
Resource-Based: Mentors pass on wisdom, experiences, and patterns, habits of obedience, principles, and any needed prepared materials to the mentoree.
Growth-Centered: Mentoring is not just friendship; it is for transformation and development toward fullness of potential.
Mentoring is a nurturing relationship where nurture can be defined as “promoting the development of others by providing nourishment, support, encouragement, during their stages of growth.”
More than anything else, mentoring is nurturing others by pouring yourself into them in a caring and affirming manner; selflessly giving of yourself for the benefit of another.
Mentoring is a conduit to transfer content, rather, a message passed along to someone; mentoring is the method (process) in which it is passed.
Mentoring can be looked at as empowerment. It starts with someone in need; then a relationship is formed with someone more experienced who can contribute to that need, and through that sharing, a transfer begins taking place resulting in change. Acceptance of what was shared brings empowerment to go and to grow through the need.
Foundation of Mentoring: Relationships
Mentoring is about assisting others, not creating replicas of our own ideals or personalities. Mentoring can be challenging, as with any relationship. Relationships can expose our insecurities, and it requires commitment, meaning hard work, time and energy. Mentoring will not always be easy; it is this relationship which sets the foundation of mentoring and foundation of its effects on mentors.
The tenants of the foundation is where Mentors take responsibility for the relationship. Mentors should get to know their mentoree before they move on to assisting in any of the academic, emotional or behavioral challenges their mentors will face, and Mentors will need a larger network of support to be successful (i.e.: the value of the core group).
According to research, one-on-one mentoring can result in a mentoree to be less likely to:
Initiate drug and alcohol use
Receive incident reports from employers
Destroy positive relationships with friends and family
Just how can your role as a mentor affect a mentoree’s life?
You can assist a mentoree’s ability to develop positive relationships with their peers, authoritative individuals, and family members.
In their youth, many mentorees have had negative experiences with other adults. Their positive relationship with you as their mentor can serve to challenge their misguided perceptions (paradigm change), open them up to the possibility that not all adults are the same.
You can improve a mentoree’s attitude and thinking skills through meaningful conversations. You can provide new perspectives, possibilities and options, removing limiting thoughts and feelings. You can help to broaden a mentoree’s horizons. On a fundamental level, you can help shape the mentoree’s self-image through positive ongoing feedback.
Which type of Mentor do you want to be?
Spiritual Guide: sharing knowledge, skills and basic philosophy to become more spiritual.
Coach: providing motivation/inspiration/encouragement.
Counselor: offering timely advice and impartial perspectives on the view of self, others and circumstance.
Teacher: sharing knowledge, understanding of a particular subject, helping make complex ideas simpler.
Sponsor: having credibility with an organization or network to help open doors for an opportunity and building bridges for a mentoree.
Consultant: This requires experience in a specific area of interest to both the Mentor and mentoree.
Friend: One who is always there, any time, any place, providing affirmation and being a sounding board.
Role Model: There are two types—past and present. Living people whose life is used as an example to indirectly impart skills, principles, and values that empower another person. Those from history whose life has been documented and used as examples to impart skills and principles that can help to empower another person.
The bottom line here, the ideal Mentor is one who has the passion and commitment to help the mentoree clarify and implement his/her vision and goals.
Next Up: Communication
How hard could it be, you might think.
Communication skills is always difficult; the reality is that each person has their own communication style. Moreover, a style of communication that works for one Mentor might fail for another. Imagine an older white Mentor trying to communicate with his young African-American mentoree by speaking to him like one of his friends does—trying to adopt local slang, turns of phrases, or even cadence. It wouldn’t work.
Similarly, one Mentor may be able to tease, cajole or mess with a mentoree while still getting across a sense of caring and respect. Whereas, another Mentor might be able to speak softly and with caring to a mentoree while that same mentoree might not accept that tone of voice from a different person.
The point is, in communication, there isn’t no one way; instead, there are a variety of styles which can be effective. As difficult as it is to train styles of communication, several principles of effective communication can be enumerated.
Self-awareness and self-acceptance greatly facilitates communication. This issue is especially important when trying to bridge gaps in culture and diversity. That is another reason why it is essential to understand our own beliefs before trying to reconcile them with those of others.
As it has been empathized from the start, in mentoring, it is the development of a stable and supportive relationship which is the most important goal—teaching, motivating, or inspiring all secondary to positive reinforcement and caring attention. And negative communication styles will likely only damage the relationship.
Developing Communication Skills
Mentors can and should encourage their mentorees to talk about their fears, dreams and concerns. A mentor may, in fact, be the only person in a mentoree’s life who truly listens. That’s another reason it is vital for them to be able to communicate effectively. By listening, Mentors can help their mentoree build self-confidence, self-esteem and cultural pride by focusing on their talents, assets and strengths.
Most people agree that talking and communication are not the same. Oftentimes we can hear, but don’t really comprehend or get what the other person is trying to say. Three basic communication skills can help: listening, looking, and leveling.
Listening doesn’t have to be passive. Done correctly, it can be as active as talking. To listen effectively, most importantly, pay attention.
Try not to think ahead of what you or the other person will say next. Don’t interrupt and listen for the feeling underneath the words. Keep a clear and open mind and avoid or postpone making judgements. Encourage the speaker to continue or clarify what has been said utilizing reflective listening—this is often referred to as mirroring or paraphrasing.
As to looking, people communicate with verbal and non-verbal language. Pay close attention to the whole person and watch their expressions (smiles, frowns, wrinkled forehead). Also watch the body language (crossed arms, tapping fingers, eyes, looking away from you when speaking).
A great approach to developing great listening skills is by reflecting and clarifying thoughts. Reflecting means sending back a person’s message to help an individual clarify if the message is accurate. You can ask a person, I heard you say … is that what you said? Or, it sounds like … is really making you feel angry. Reflecting and clarifying will only help if done in a sincere manner by someone who really cares.
Leveling means being honest about what you are really feeling and thinking. Thus, be honest in your responses or disclosure, just keep in mind the age of the mentoree. Speak for yourself using “I statements”. Accept and/or ask for clarification on the mentoree’s feelings. Never assume you are sure of what they are trying to say. And don’t try to change the feeling or give advice without being asked and/or before you hear and evaluate all that is being said both verbally and nonverbally.
There are three other specific communication techniques that can also help.
Use of the I Message:
Most messages we send about our behavior are “you messages”, those directed at other people and can have a high probability of putting them down, making them feel guilty or that their needs aren’t important, and can also make them feel angry.
The “I message” allows a person who is affected by the behavior of another person to express the impact it has on him/her, and it allows the Mentor to see how such actions affect others and how they themselves can be empowered to make their own decisions, so they can grow with the experience.
This is an active listening skill which bears elaboration. It focuses on listening to the mentoree first, then reflecting back both the content and feeling of what they’ve said.
Identifying feelings are challenging to active listening; however, identifying them correctly can facilitate a continuing conversation. Even when a feeling might be misidentified, the simple act of trying to understand can encourage them to clarify their feelings.
Paraphrasing often begins with a phrase that turns attention back to the mentoree and the content or underlying message of what they are saying. One good way of paraphrasing is with transitional phases such as:
So you’re saying that …
You think that …
So the problem is …
You’re feeling that …
And that made you feel …
Open-ended questions are those to which a person cannot default to “yup, nope,” or “I don’t know.” They are questions requiring a greater length of response and a greater investment of energy from the mentoree.
How do you feel about that situation?
What are your reasons for …?
Can you give me an example?
What do you want to do about it?
Now, this doesn’t mean closed-minded ones should be avoided. There will be times when a yes or no session can be an easy and relaxed way of breaking the ice. Mentors need to remember that mentoree’s have a tendency to want to be brief and non-invested as possible. This doesn’t mean the mentoree isn’t paying attention or doesn’t want to be in the conversation. Mentors should try interspersing open-ended questions with closed-ended ones—it will draw out information and allow the mentoree to throw in a few comfortable, “Yups.”
Thomas Gordon, in his books, Parent Effectiveness training, identified twelve styles of communication which discourage and cut off communication. These are often styles learned in the family of origin. These same patterns can develop in mentor-mentoree relationships. Attention should be paid to your communication to avoid these occurrences.
The following are examples of each style.
Ordering/directing/commanding—telling the person what should be done.
Warning/admonishing/threatening—promising consequences if the mentoree does something he isn’t supposed to do.
Moralizing/exhorting/preaching—telling a person what he/she should do.
Advising/giving solutions/suggestions—giving a person the answers or the solution to a problem without allowing the person to come to their own conclusion.
Lecturing—instead, offer facts, information, or sound logic to influence a person.
Judging/criticizing/disagreeing/blaming—giving negative judgement or feedback.
Discounting feelings or giving misleading, distracting feedback.
Name-calling/ridiculing/shaming—embarrassing him/her and putting them down.
Interpreting/analyzing/diagnosing—telling a person you have him/her figured out, that you know what is wrong.
Reassuring/sympathizing/consoling—trying to make him/her feel better by denying their feelings or convince them that the situation isn’t as bad as first thought.
Probing/questioning/interrogating—searching for causes, motives, reasons to help you find a solution to his/her problem.
Withdrawing/distracting/humoring/diverting—trying to get him/her to forget about whatever is bothering them.
How to Approach Communication with A Mentoree
How to Approach Communication with A Mentoree
Mentoring should be understood as a type of relationship with a mentoree, and communication is probably the most important tool we have to build any type of relationship. Mentors can and should encourage there mentoree’s to talk about their fears, dreams and concerns. A Mentor may be the only person in a mentoree’s life who really listens. By listening, Mentors can help then mentoree to build self-confidence, self-esteem, and cultural pride by focusing on their talents, assets and their strengths.
There are several ways on how to approach communication levels with a mentoree and we start with suspending judgement. Tru to be objective as possible as you really listen to what your mentoree has to say. Be sure to include body language and other nonverbal information he/her is sending you. Ask questions to clarifying what you do not understand, rather than by making assumptions.
Put yourself in his/her place. Slide into their shoes for a moment to feel and see the situation from their point of view (Point to always remember: Seek first to understand.). Remember that cultural diversity, life situations and experiences combine to create your mentoree’s point of view.
Own your own. By owning your own problems, you encourage the mentoree to do the same. Hence, if the mentoree misses an appointment with you, it would be important to tell him/her how this made you feel without using the blame/shame game. Using the “I” message, you can own your own feelings such as, “I was disappointed last night when you didn’t show up to meet me.”
With nonverbal communication, this method alone can tell you much or more than anything that’s being said. Look for clues in your mentoree’s body language to see what they are really saying.
Confront the situation and don’t be afraid to say what is really on your mind. Side-stepping an issue will only postpone the inevitable. Encourage your mentoree to talk to you about how they see a situation without screening their feelings to make it more palatable for you. Don’t interrupt them or put words in their mouth or interpret the situation for them.
One big area is setting boundaries. Some Mentors find the idea of boundary setting harsh, mean or controlling. In reality, boundaries are vital in helping people feel safe and protected. Boundary setting is important so that each person in a mentoring relationship is clear about their role. It helps to establish and nurture trust in a relationship. More significantly, boundary setting not only helps to protect the mentoree, but the program itself. It’s important to review and discuss boundaries with advisors and other mentors in order to avoid confusion, miscommunication, and possibly premature closure of a mentoring relationship. A discussion on boundary setting will help mentors start on the right foot and avoid having to change things later once a strong pattern of behavior has been established.
The most common boundaries are:
Time. Consistency and frequency of meetings are important elements of a successful mentoring relationship. However, spending too much time together can create dependency and will lead to unrealistic expectations on behalf of the mentoree about what a mentoring relationship can and can’t do.
Don’t feel like you have to solve all of your mentoree’s problems.
A mentoree that tries to cling to a relationship too hard may be worried about being abandoned. Several meetings are not going to satisfy their needs or quell their fears.
However, setting regular and consistent meetings will help insure the mentoree that over time, the mentor will be there.
If a Mentor doesn’t set boundaries, with regard to personal time, they can unknowingly create the very conditions that will lead them to burn out and a premature ending.
Money. A Mentor is not a loan department or a bank. A Mentor is not that of a financial provider. If a mentoree is going through a financial hardship, it’s important to remember to discuss with the mentoree the appropriate resources available, but also be supportive of their emotional needs through their relationship. Creating financial dependency will eventually cause a rift in the relationship. Mentors who take on financial responsibilities for their mentoree tend to feel used, overburdened, and end up resenting the relationship. It sends the wrong message that they are in fact, helpless, weak, and unable to solve their own problems.
Self-Disclosure. Mentors need to be careful about the type of personal information they share with their mentoree. You need to ask yourself, what purpose does it serve to share personal information. Are you doing it because you need the support? Or do you think this information will serve a higher purpose? Would sharing personal information about yourself cut off communication or lead to more open communication?
Mentor should not burden a mentoree with their own life problems. A Mentor’s responsibility is to be supportive of a mentoree and listen to his/her concerns. It should always be mentoree-centered and not self-centered.
Mentor’s should be careful not to disclose information that may be inappropriate during the time with the mentoree.
If a mentoree asks a very personal question, a good response would be, “Are you asking because you are wondering what is appropriate for your behavior?” That approach may get him/her to think about their own life and concerns rather than divert attention by talking about you. If a mentoree really wants to know about their mentor’s past and experience, they will ask again, and if they do, this is where you have to do so in an appropriate context and extent, for portions of self-disclosure can be a powerful way to connect with the mentoree and build trust. Appropriate sharing combined with genuine interaction can empower the mentoree to open up and help to reap the benefits of learning from the experience of someone they respect.
An Assessment Test
Assessment & Closing Words
Serving as a Mentor is challenging and allows an opportunity for continued personal growth. It’s difficult for us to monitor the image we project, to see ourselves as others view us, so it’s important we are able to take a step back now and then and assess our own effectiveness.
See how well you score with this Personal Inventory test.
Scoring: Always: 3 Sometimes: 2 Never: 1.
I observe people to identify their problem ____
I am a good listener_____
When a person comes to me with a situation or problem, I encourage them to consider various productive options _____
I remain accessible and allocate the time necessary to establish trust with a potential mentoree and provide desired positive guidance _____
I am patient, tactful, and sensitive to the needs and feelings of others, and maintain an accommodating attitude_____
I am aware that I am considered a role model, and strive to show respectfulness and consideration in all of my dealings _____
I am open to feedback and constructive criticism, considerate of the opinions of others, although they may differ from mine_____
I strive for a balance of body, mind, and spirit in my own life to lend credibility to the guidance I offer_____
I consider it a privilege to help others grow and function productively_____
(Add up your points and at the very end of this segment, see how you scored)
I hope you have gotten something from this study guide, and that this may be a stepping stone for those of you that may now have a sincere interest in becoming a Mentor to help another human being realize their own potential and help them overcome boundaries, fears, concerns, problems.
All too often, people say they are willing and able to help another fellow being, but don’t always follow through. When you become a Mentor, you stay a Mentor and in the process you are not just a friend, not just a leader, but rather; committed to a greater purpose of a human life other than yourself.
As a Mentor, you not only help a mentoree resolve their problems and get back on the right track for themselves, but you also attain additional personal growth for yourself. Done correctly, it’s a complete win-win.
Four things you need: a sustainable level of enthusiasm, resilience, heart, and the belief this is the right thing to do.
Thanks for going on this ride with me. Hopefully, even if you decide that being a Mentor isn’t for you, that you still got something out of this you can take with you for just you.
It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself – Ralph Waldo Emerson
24-27 points: You have the potential of being an excellent Mentor!
18-23 points: Your skill sets are good, but they may need some attention.
01-17 points: Perhaps it’s time to reassess and make some improvements.