01 Feb The gift of mentoring
Your organisation has embarked on a graduate program, and you have been nominated as a mentor. Maybe you have mentored before, and you feel fairly comfortable doing so. Or maybe this is your very first time to mentor a young professional entering the working world. So where do you even begin? How will this work? What if there is no chemistry between you and your graduate? How can you best support them?
These are some of the questions that might be floating through your mind. Firstly, it’s normal to feel slightly nervous. Most organisations provide really good support to the mentors. I think an important point to remember throughout the mentoring is what is the purpose of mentoring? Mentoring is all about walking alongside your graduate and building trust with them. Trust is so important because when there is trust between you two, your graduate will feel comfortable talking to you about anything. This is so important especially if you come from a very different background compared to your mentor.
How do you build that trust?
You don’t need to have the answers. In fact, Nancy Kline believes the mind that contains the question, also contains the answer. If you create the correct environment, the person will think by themselves, for themselves. They will come up with their own answer and their own best thinking. Listening is one of the best gifts you can bring to mentoring.
Be open to feedback and questions from your graduate. You are both learning on this journey. It’s not a one-sided relationship. Ask the graduate for feedback. Maybe you won’t receive feedback in the beginning but be patient. Give it time. As you listen and start to get over the initial nerves and build trust, you’ll find the conversation will go to a deeper level.
Talk about how you navigate a new situation. Talk about how you have dealt with similar challenges that the graduate might be facing. Show your vulnerabilities. For goodness sake, don’t try and pretend that you know it all. Or don’t think that you need to ‘be strong’ for the graduate. Talk about the times you were unclear. Share those experiences and more importantly, share the lessons learnt with the graduate.
“In my experience”
After you have listened, been open and shown your vulnerability, you might want to offer suggestions. Note I carefully selected the words “offer suggestions”. That’s right. You never tell a person what to do. You can offer suggestions and then it’s up to them to decide if they want to use it. One way of doing so is to say, “In my experience, the following 3 things really work when dealing with an aggressive team member”.
These are some of the building blocks of trust. I think it’s also important to say that trust truly takes time. It’s not an overnight exercise. Be patient and you will get there.