When you’re asked to become a mentor to someone, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. You’ve reached a stage in your career wherein you have valuable knowledge to pass on, and you can impart that wisdom to an eager disciple. However, the difference between being a good mentor, and one of the best, is all about how much effort you put in, and the ground rules you set for both yourself, and the student. Here’s some advice to get you there.
1. Listen more than you speak
It’s easy to think that because you’re an experienced and reliable advisor, talking is the biggest part of the role. But in reality, a great mentor will choose his or her words carefully, and spend way more time listening to their protégé. Knowing what to say, and when to say it, is what separates a good mentor from a great one. If you listen to your young Padawan carefully, you’ll get all the information you need to provide more reasoned and helpful advice.
2. Know when to step back
We learn by failing. You shouldn’t be afraid to let your disciple fail. Of course, they should be at least ready to attempt the task at hand, whether it’s learning a new skill, or leading a team project. But success will not come instantly, and by letting them learn from their mistakes (and embracing every success along the way) you’ll prepare them way better than a mentor who shelters them from every possible struggle.
3. Offer plenty of clear explanations
What’s that old saying about giving someone a fish versus teaching them how to fish? You know the one. The same applies to almost any kind of information you share with your mentee. You may know the best way to do something, be it stripping down an engine or building a strategy for a product launch. However, just telling them without explaining why you do it the way you do is nowhere near as helpful. Remember, you’re a mentor because you have great knowledge to pass on. Get ready to explain the why as well as the how. It will also help you gain a fresh perspective on how you got so good at what you do.
4. Acknowledge that you can learn from them, too
Mentoring is not a one-way street. Whether you’re 28 or 88, there’s always something new to learn. Sure, you know a lot; enough to be a mentor, but your mentee brings new experiences and information to the table as well.
A great example of this is the world of advertising and design. The last decade has seen a revolution in the way brands advertise to consumers, and in particular, millennials, and Gen Z’ers. Social media is a powerful tool, and one that veteran advertising experts are still trying to master. Mentees in the advertising world often know more about this than the mentors. Get ready to trade knowledge, not just dish it out.