Category: Mentoring

Top Tips On How To Be A Mentor- Establishing Trust & Rapport

Mentoring is a partnered learning process. The critical element that can “make or break” the partnership is the kinship that is kindled amongst the mentor and the mentee.By rapport we are referring to actions that create a bond that rests on the strong foundation of trust and security. The basic building block for any relationship should always be trust and understanding, never insecurity or fear. The relationship between a mother and a child – one of the first that any human being has in life is one such. As a human being progresses in life , moving from dependence to independence, lessons in rejection, fear ,discomfort and pain makes them stronger. Here are a few tips to be a better mentor by establishing trust and rapport.

Rapport in mentoring also follows a similar journey – one that starts with trust and dependence, moves through challenges , learns from them and culminates in independence. The tone set during the first meeting would determine how the relationship between the mentor and the mentee takes off. The protégé enters into a mentoring partnership with a mask that arises from being unsure of the consequences of the whole exercise. The onus of reassuring the protégé and making him comfortable and secure rests on the mentor and this first step is crucial. But there is no cause if the first meeting doesn’t turn out to be great. I’m sure we all have built great friendships where day – one started on shaky ground. The same holds good with a mentoring partnership as well.

Establishing rapport with an unknown person is easier said than done. For kindling the embers of trust and kinship from the first meeting it is important to identify the areas of rapport which needs to be focussed on. We shall call it the four components – communicating in the same platform, gifting gestures and being attentive to feelings .

Breaking the hierarchy

The protégé walks into the first mentoring with a lot of unanswered questions. Am I going to be judged? Is this situation embarrassing? What if I don’t do well? The underlying apprehension can be overcome in a minute through a welcoming gesture from the mentor. The protégé from the first minute should be reassured of the fact that the mentoring process is to happen on a level play- ground. Positive gestures like a smile, a warm handshake, eye contact, personalised greeting, reference to each other by first names etc can set the right tone indicating that there is no hierarchy or level in mentoring.

Sense of abundance

A lot of mentors make the classic mistake of starting off on a warm note, but become serious and grave as the session gains momentum. It is important to take that camaraderie and warmth and camaraderie forward at least till the protégé is accepting and  trusting to create positive learning ambience in mentoring. Moving the mentoring session to a less formal environment like a coffee-shop, or passing a round of chocolates at the start of the session as a ritual can lighten the mood and give an impression of a “not – so serious” mentoring session. Gifting gestures from the mentor gives out positive messages and dissolves any inhibitions that they protégé may have about the mentor being “ dangerous”.

Empathetic Listening

A great mentor will be extremely conscious of the mentees reactions and would use the learning to relate to their feelings. A fruitful mentoring partnership is one where the protégé is made to feel at ease. The mentor has to put all efforts to ensure that the protégé feels that he/she is the most important person in the room. Unconditional positive regard for feelings right from the gestation stage of the relationship is what can create a long standing impact of positivity setting the pace for a good kinship.

There is no right or wrong approach to build a great mentoring kinship. Using these components as pointers each mentor can devise a plan for rapport building based on what the mentoring objective is. What is the approach that you want to adopt?

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Top Tips On How To Be A Mentor – Assuaging Proteges Apprehensions

I have a friend whose favorite pastime is scuba diving. I am scared of water and can never get myself to go for a swim , forget diving. Fear is a very subjective emotion. What one fears may sound like a joke to another. Mentoring however is a partnership where both the mentor and the protege need to understand each other’s emotional framework and use this learning as the foundation for the mentoring superstructure.

If I’m asked to give one top tip on how to be a mentor then I would say – assuage protege’s apprehensions.

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Top Tips On How To Be A Mentor – Lend A Listening Ear

Most of us would listen patiently to our spouses or to our kids. But we hardly have the same patience at work. Leaders who have been given a “C” in listening at work transform into attentive listeners when their eight years comes home with a complaint about a fight with the neighbor’s kid.

In fact most people become active listeners with kids totally devoid of fake attitudes and stripped of ego. Why is it that we are different with our kids? One reason could be the level of importance we attribute to the other person. A top tip to mentors – lend a listening ear.

A mentor should give the mentee the importance they deserve. Most of our problems in communication arise from our inability to listen well. When an individual is unable to offer undivided attention to a conversation , finer details which are important may be missed out.

This in turn impacts the flow of the conversation and reduces its overall effectiveness. What needs to be done is to consciously conclude that every conversation is important and deserves the same level of listening.

Listening is vital to a fruitful mentoring program. If the mentor is able to listen well and design questions based on the answers of earlier ones , then the conversation progresses in the right direction.

The rapt attention of the mentor also conveys the message of the level of importance the process holds to the mentor to the protege , which in turn would increase the value perception of the exercise in his mind. Dedicated listening would required the mentor to put away all other burning issues in the back burner during the course of the mentoring program and focus totally on the “now”.

One way to distract yourself from distractions and focus on the task at hand is to convince yourself that there is nothing that is more important. Imagine that you have always wanted to meet Bill Gates. If you were to get five minutes with someone as important as him would you be distracted by what’s happening on the personal or professional front. Imagine that the mentoring program that you have undertaken in something similar, Treat it with the same priority and give it the importance you would give for a meeting with your “hero”.

If you are genuinely pre-occupied, and feel that you may not be able to offer undivided attention to the mentee, then communicate the same and keep the session at a time when you can concentrate fully on the exercise without giving it a grudge.

Make it obvious to the protege through either the conversation or body language that you are listening. You could ask your protege to point it out to you if at any point in time they feel you may be distracted. Give them the freedom and acknowledge the fact when being pointed out with a smile. This will take the conversation to a different level altogether. It would also be good to reiterate what the protege said just to ensure that the message has been received in the right note. This will ensure complete understanding of each other.

Read this space for more tips of effective mentoring.

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Top Tips On How To Be A Mentor – Socrates Mentoring Secret – The Art Of Questioning

Socrates , who is always synonymous with great teaching, never walked into a “class”( if you can call it that) with a text book or a power point presentation. His teaching was about asking the right questions and deciphering answers from listening to the answers. The right question sets the brain thinking, evokes curiosity and grows wisdom.

This is why the Socratic method is what mentors should master. And mind you, this is an art- something which has to be consciously cultivated. A question that seeks to build understanding would just unleash a powerful chain of activities than foster discovery making the mentoring experience much more enriching. A tip to every mentor is to follow Socrates mentoring secret – master the art of questioning.

The best way to ask the right question is to make a statement. The statement should be able to convey the message of understanding , reassuring the protege that the mentor is on the same wavelength and should also set the context for the discussion. In doing so , the mentor communicates to the protege that homework has been done and sets the background for the discussion. It also makes the protege less defensive, which would clearly not have been the case if a question was asked.

The right question is never information seeking . The purpose of questioning is to create a framework for thinking and self –discovery and hence the questions should be framed so as to evoke higher level thinking. Open – ended questions can be used in such a way that inspires the protege to think deep , develop clear understanding , which is perceived by the mentee as useful and implementable.

Have you noticed the way people respond to questions that open with “why”? These questions have the capacity to instantly evoke two types of reactions. One is to get people to retract into their cocoons, while the other is to make them defensive. Either does not work in mentoring. If questions are being asked to foster smoother and transparent interaction, then it is best to shy away from “why” .

The reason is that why is always associated with being judgemental and vindictive. Even if the “why” is asked calmly, it always triggers defensive hormones . Ask questions that let people forget themselves and involve themselves into trying to find answers.

A “right” question is never one which is asked for the sake of asking. It is important to design questions that lead the protege closer to his goal. The objective of the mentoring exercise  should be where each question asked should point towards.

In doing so , the mentor helps the protege find answers on their own, instilling confidence and courage in them. It is also important to ask probing questions. The aim is not to diverge , but to converge and hence one question should lead to another , the series culminating at the objective.

If you look at great mentors, Jesus, Buddha, Aristotle one thing that is common to them was that they were all curious- strong believers that there is scope for learning everywhere. It is this curiosity in them that helped them evoke curiosity in their proteges by asking the right questions. Questions are the diamonds in mentoring. But to frame the right questions it is important to listen to the answers. Read on to know why mentors need to practice active listening.

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Top Tips On How To Be A Mentor- Acceptance The Key To Courage in Mentoring

Mentoring is learning in its rawest form. A one –to – one process the protege stands fully exposed and vulnerable making it a highly awkward and embarrassing experience. And the partnership is not one that assures success adding to the discomfort. However true learning can happen only when people move out of their comfort zone.

For an adult this is easier said than done. The whole thought of budging from the comfort zone creates a feeling of panic – generally arising from the risk of failure. But then success is always an end product of multiple failures. On top tip for being a mentor is to foster acceptance which is the key to courage in mentoring.

The mentor has to instill the courage in the mentee to fight battles , take failure at face value, learn from them and move on till the destination is reached. Courage is a virtue which cannot be given but needs to be found.

Every individual has courage hidden in the realms of their personality and the mentor just helps the protege to unearth it. This can be done through unconditional acceptance of the protege- displaying utmost respect , support and regard to everything that the protege does.

No facilitation can be more effective than personal example. The mentor instills courage and confidence in the mind of the protégé by displaying the traits in every aspects of the partnership.  The mentor becomes a prototype demonstrating whatever is expected from the protégé during the mentoring session.

A protege who is reluctant to change may take this as a cue, since the demonstration clearly indicates the resulting transformation. Getting the protege to teach the mentor something that they are not aware of is an example of a confidence building exercise. Partnering in exercises can be another way of instilling courage.

A protege always sees the mentor as a critical judge of their capabilities and dwells on the fear that their weaknesses are going to explode at some point of time. In fact , for the protege the exercise is most often a long wait for “that” dreaded moment.

Every comment or passing statement that a mentor makes, irrespective of how genuine it is may be viewed critically. This is why mentors must master the art of judgement free communication. Using a warm tone of acceptance in every message can work as an antidote to the insecurities lurking in the minds of the protege.

Every word should reaffirm the fact that the protege is normal and legitimate in their views and that those are being accepted unconditionally. The mentor gets to the same level as the protege by being transparent in their communication and by making their vulnerabilities visible.

However , this should not be misread as patronizing. Any affirmation or appreciation that a mentor offers to a mentee has to be rational, supported by ample proof. The communication should be objective as well as factual and straightforward. The key is to encourage the mentee to come out with solutions by framing questions the right way.

Read on to know how to frame the right questions to enrich the mentoring experience.

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