If you’re lucky, you may have a moment in this life when you get a chance to mentor someone else. Often, sharing what you know will be just as illuminating for you as it is the person you’ve been called on to mentor.
We learn differently when we teach others. We have to know what we know in a deep way to share it with others. When you realize how much you have to share then, it’s a confident boost. That alone makes mentoring worthwhile, but nurturing the dreams of another is the real payoff. Here are a few guidelines that will help you create a successful partnership for both of you.
Talk openly about what you can offer and develop a structure. My relationship with my mentor Sally-Jo was loose. I sent e-mails when I needed help and she would respond within a couple of days or send me a note letting me know when she would get back to me. This worked for us. But you may decide you want a weekly meeting or a monthly interaction. Don’t over-promise. Create a structure that works for both of you, talk about it, be flexible and remember, you are not to do the work for your mentoree, only to guide them. This can mean a lot of hurry up when a project is in the works and lots of wait time in between. Knowing what’s expected from both of you makes it easy to establish the pace of work together. Also, if you expected to be paid for your services, make that known and decide on a fee. My mentors have always coached me at no charge, and I’ve done the same for others, but if you expect something different make it clear from the get-go.
Do what you say you will. If someone is committed and eager enough to want a mentor, make sure that you keep the momentum going by supporting his efforts. After you develop the structure for the relationship, make sure you stick to it. This doesn’t have to be an everyday, or even an every week kind of deal. But, if you said you’ll call, call. If you committed to a weekly lunch, keep it. If you said you’d make a call, once a month. Keep the date.
Let your mentee drive the relationship. Find out what the person your mentoring wants to know and what would help them the most and deliver that first. Provide information, but also practical application so that the person you are mentoring learns how to integrate the lesson into real life.
Offer information, then let it go. You have great knowledge and wisdom, otherwise you wouldn’t be called on to mentor, but your job now, isn’t to impose your will. You can offer perspective, but ultimately the person you’re guiding determines how to use it. Give what you can, then turn her loose to use your wisdom however she decides.
Stay relevant. As I worked with Sally-Jo the publishing industry changed dramatically. On-line publications and queries became the thing, as did letters of introduction and even phone calls. The style which she was most familiar with, disappeared. So, she got on e-mail and learned the new ways of the evolving industry. One thing about Sally-Jo is that she is always creating, and learning, and growing. She is willing to try new things so she continues to be a a vast resource of relevant knowledge for me. The world is rapidly changing, keep up with it, stay attuned to the changes and you’ll be an important resource for the person you’re coaching.
Enjoy the relationship. It can be extremely satisfying to watch a person you’ve coached excel. Enjoy their success and the time you spend working together. A mentor/mentee relationship can be illuminating for both of you and contains many inherent gifts, look for them and appreciate them.