The obvious item that a mentor needs in his toolbox is experience. When the mentor begins to work with his protégé, he comes offering the gift of his experience. However, having experience is not enough. The mentor needs certain skills that help the protégé create his own unique experiences. Some of the essential skills that a mentor can bring to the table include:
The mentor must want to see growth in others, and he must want to continue his own growth as well. A good analogy might be the protégé as an explorer in a jungle with the mentor as a guide. To do a good job guiding the explorer, the guide must have an enthusiasm for helping the explorer have the most rewarding experience along the way. The guide also will see and experience new things along the way that will make him a better guide. However, there has to be a willingness and ability on the part of the guide to make the journey as complete as possible. He must bring the explorer from point A to point B safely while the explorer gains his own set of experiences and skills. For the workplace mentor, guidance often comes from sharing his own stories and asking the right questions. A good mentor will have the ability to guide and motivate another individual toward growth.
A mentor needs to be able to support the efforts of the less experienced worker in such a way that he is credible, helpful and yet encourages independent action. He must be patient and non-judgmental. The protégé needs to have confidence in the knowledge and experience of the mentor. He should feel comfortable coming to the mentor whether he has succeeded or failed. He should feel comfortable asking any question without fear of being embarrassed for asking. The mentor must be able to give comments that are encouraging and instructive but not judgmental. The protégé should feel stronger after meeting with his mentor not weaker.
Active Listening Skills
A good mentor masters the skill of active listening. He listens to the protégé in a way that encourages the protégé to dig deeper for his own answers. An active listener isn’t just waiting for a chance to say what is on his mind. He is present and paying attention to what the speaker is saying. He gives verbal and non-verbal cues that encourage the speaker to continue to follow his line of thought. He waits patiently and doesn’t jump in with arguments or feedback too swiftly. If the mentor doesn’t understand what the protégé is saying, he might paraphrase what he thinks he is saying and allowing the protégé to correct him. Good active listening skills are essential to the mentoring relationship.
A good mentor knows the power of asking the right question. He will habitually ask open-ended questions that encourage his protégé to dig deeper for the answer. In the spirit of a guide, the mentor understands that it is usually better for growth if the protégé comes to his own conclusions rather than to try to force feed him information. While statements are a part of all reasonable communication, the mentor’s approach will be that it is always more useful to guide the protégé to have his own experiences. One effective way to do that is through asking the right questions.