The 6 difficult questions you need to answer before you become a mentor

11 December 2019 -

Passing the baton relay raceMentoring is incredibly valuable and rewarding – but it’s got to be done right

Mark Rowland

Being a mentor can be incredibly rewarding for both parties, helping both mentor and mentee to develop and grow. It also comes with a lot of responsibility. “Mentoring, poorly administered, can also lead to the perpetuation of bad habits and practices, a lack of innovation and a resistance to change,” says Andy Johnson CCMI, an executive coach. “It is also not about patronage – the Mentor may be quietly proud of their Protégé’s successes – but should remember that it is the Protégé who has achieved.”

If you’re going to be a successful mentor, you need to ask yourself some tough questions. Honest answers will help you to get into the right mindset to be a mentor, and also help you determine what form that mentoring will take.

1. Why do you want to be a mentor?

It’s important to be honest with yourself about why you want to be a mentor. If the answer is ‘to add to my CV’ or ‘to make a good impression with upper management’, you’re not doing it for the right reasons. You need to want to genuinely help your potential mentee to succeed. You are out to empower them to carve their own path, learning from your experiences and perspectives to ease them on their way.

2. Do you have the time to be a mentor?

With the technology now available to us, we’re much more able to deliver mentoring in different forms. If you can only meet every now and again, you can use platforms such as WhatsApp to keep in regular contact. However, you still need to give your mentor-mentee relationship the thinking and listening time it deserves. Particularly in the early stages, you’re in the process of building a relationship. If you aren’t committed enough, it won’t be sustainable.

3. Are you a good listener?

While mentoring is about sharing your advice and experiences, a bigger part of it is active listening. You need to ask your mentee a lot of questions and really listen to the answers if you’re going to be able to give them anything of value. You must put your assumptions aside and let them tell you what their issues or areas of development might be.

4. Do you believe in your mentee’s potential?

A good mentor-mentee relationship is about mutual trust and respect. If you don’t believe in your mentee’s abilities, developing that trust and respect is a very tall order. You’re also much less likely to give your mentee the space to figure things out for themselves – a very important part of good mentoring.

5. Are you open to new ideas?

Your mentee might have a different way of approaching a problem or achieving a goal than you do. That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong – just different. Yes, your mentee can benefit from your methods and approach too, but if you just tell them what to do and how to do it, your mentee isn’t developing their own skills – just following orders. The mentor-mentee relationship should develop into a free-flowing exchange of ideas. Remember that you can learn a thing or two as well.

6. Are you in this for the long haul?

There is no end date to a good mentor-mentee relationship. You’re trying to develop a relationship that will last across several job roles and organisations. Senior leaders are often still in touch with their retired mentors, and still reach out to them for advice. Are you prepared to create a relationship with your mentee that lasts decades? Again, it all comes down to respect, trust and belief in each other. If you’re going to be a great mentor, you need to be all-in on the person you’re mentoring.

Sign up for CMI Mentoring to connect with potential mentors. To develop your active listening skills, login to ManagementDirect.

Image: Shutterstock

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