Q: In my recent appraisal, my boss suggested I would make a good mentor. How do I go about becoming one?
Are you mentor material? Not everyone is cut out to be one - you need to have good listening skills and to be non-judgemental. But perhaps your boss has spotted this in you.
It is certainly worth thinking about. Mentoring can be a really valuable experience, both for mentor and mentee. You will learn a lot from the process.
The word mentor has its origins in Greek. In Homer's Odyssey, Mentor is a friend of Odysseus. When the king leaves for the Trojan war he puts Mentor in charge of his household.
Learn from the mentee
David Clutterbuck is regarded as an expert on the subject and has written Everyone Needs a Mentor (available from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development). He says "a good mentor will learn from the person they are mentoring". But he also warns that it takes time.
The first question is: do you have time to do this? You will need to commit yourself to a series of regular meetings, perhaps once a month.
But you also need to find someone suitable to mentor. Remember - this is a partnership. Has your boss suggested someone inside the organisation?
Or perhaps you could offer your services through your professional association.
If you are about to start a mentoring arrangement, bear in mind the following points:
- Agree expectations. Right at the start you should sort out what both sides expect from the arrangement.
- Trust. You need to build trust and rapport with your mentee, so get to know each other well, both in work terms and life outside work.
- Coaching. Coaching is often thought to be short-term and focused on immediate aims. However, mentors should also use coaching skills. You are undoubtedly going to bring experience to this task, so you should use this with your mentee in their work challenges.
- Listen. The focus is going to be on listening to your mentee. And this is active listening. Not everyone is good at this, but it's central to the task.
- Be honest. To help your mentee you will want to share your own experiences. Be honest about both your triumphs and your failures. And talk about how you learn from your failures and how they can too.
- Prepare. Have a look at some of the literature about mentoring. Recommend one particular book.
You might also want to look at the mentoring site of the centre for excellence in leadership at www. centreforexcellence.org.uk.