5 Tips on How to Be a Good Mentor
There’s no doubt that mentoring is a powerful way to give back. But what if you are unsure about what to do as a mentor? We sat down with executive coach and leadership development educator Nancy Lamberton of the Nebo Company for tips on being a good mentor.
1. Before you take the leap into mentoring, ask yourself a few questions.
As a mentor, what do you want to contribute? Where do you want to make a difference? “Once you start narrowing down what you’re interested in and ways you can contribute, you’ll get lots of ideas about where you can potentially make a difference and volunteer,” says Lamberton.
2. Be a “modern mentor.”
There’s a new school of mentoring, one in which the mentor doesn’t have all the answers. Instead of sharing knowledge or advice, the mentor focuses on deep listening, open-ended questions, and acting as a resource or network. “Being a mentor is being a connector,” says Lamberton. “It’s asking great questions. It’s helping the mentee see the possibilities.”
3. Prepare to learn just as much as your mentee.
Most people become mentors because they want to give back. But more often than not, mentors also benefit from the relationship. “The mentor role is not this set, stodgy, formal role,” says Lamberton. “It’s really very fluid. Even when I’m technically sitting there with the role of mentor, there are times in the mentoring conversation where truly I’m being mentored.”
4. Don’t expect gender to matter too much in the way you mentor.
While women may be more open to trusting and sharing with a mentor, Lamberton says that gender doesn’t matter too much in a mentoring relationship. Some of the issues women want to address in mentoring, however, are gender-specific. She shared this example: “Many women who are in tech are still working in environments where there are many more men than women. A woman mentee might have a situation where she feels like her voice isn’t being heard and she wants to explore that with her mentor.”
5. Remember that mentoring in its simplest form is just a conversation.
Mentoring doesn’t have to be a formal program that requires a lot of time. It can be as easy as a 10-minute conversation. “Mentoring is a special conversation,” says Lamberton. “It doesn’t need to be scary. If the intent is to help someone learn, it’s a mentoring conversation.”
How have you been an effective mentor? Have you had a good mentor? Have we missed any tips? Tell us in the comments.